Bosnian war chief DIES after drinking bottle of POISON and yelling 'I'm not a war criminal' after his 20-year prison sentence for campaign against Muslims is upheld at The Hague

  • Slobodan Praljak appeared at The Hague to appeal 20-year war crime sentence
  • As judge upheld the punishment, he pulled a vial of dark liquid from his pocket
  • Praljak shouted 'I am not a war criminal!' before downing the mystery substance
  • The courtroom was quickly closed and ambulances rushed to the scene
  • Croatian Prime Minister has since confirmed that Praljak died

A Bosnian-Croat war chief has died after downing poison during his war crimes trial at The Hague, the Croatian Prime Minister has confirmed.

Slobodan Praljak yelled, 'I am not a war criminal!' and drank a dark liquid from a small bottle seconds after losing his appeal against a 20-year prison sentence at the International Criminal Tribunal, in the Netherlands.

'I just drank poison,' he added. 'I am not a war criminal. I oppose this conviction.'?

Praljak, 72, is one of six Croatian politicians sentenced to jail for their involvement in a campaign to drive Muslims out of a would-be Bosnian Croat mini-state in Bosnia in the early 1990s.?

Shock: Slobodan Praljak, 72, shouted 'I am not a war criminal!' and brought a small bottle to his lips during a Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands

Protest: Fellow convicts Bruno Stojic and Milivoj Petkovic, sitting on either side of the Croat politician, look on in shock and surprise as he downs the contents of the bottle

Protest: Fellow convicts Bruno Stojic and Milivoj Petkovic, sitting on either side of the Croat politician, look on in shock and surprise as he downs the contents of the bottle

His lawyer shouted out 'my client has taken poison' before judge Carmel Agius suspended the hearing and the courtroom was closed.

Moments later ambulance crews arrived at the scene and a helicopter began hovering overhead.???

Several emergency rescue workers rushed into the building carrying equipment in backpacks, while court officials called for calm.

?Croatia's state-run TV service later said he died in hospital in the Netherlands, a statement which was later confirmed by?Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovi?, who offered condolences to his family.

Mr Plenkovic said at a press conference that 'we have all unfortunately witnessed his act by which he took his own life'.

'His act mostly speaks about a deep moral injustice towards six Croats from Bosnia and the Croatian people ... We voice dissatisfaction and regret about the verdict.'

Judge Agius declared the courtroom to be a crime scene as he restarted the hearing, though gave no further details.

Dutch police also said an investigation had been launched, but would not disclose whether Praljak was alive or dead.?

Drama: Praljak appeared to drink the poison seconds after losing his appeal at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, in The Hague, Netherlands.

Praljak's lawyer shouted out 'my client has taken poison' before the courtroom was closed and medical teams rushed to the scene

Praljak's lawyer shouted out 'my client has taken poison' before the courtroom was closed and medical teams rushed to the scene

Several medical vehicles were seen outside the court while a helicopter hovered overhead, but Croatian state TV reported medics were unable to save?Praljak

Several medical vehicles were seen outside the court while a helicopter hovered overhead, but Croatian state TV reported medics were unable to save?Praljak

Praljak was sentenced to 20 years in jail along with his co-conspirators back in 2013, though it is not clear if he began serving that sentence before his appeal.?

Bosnian Croats and Muslims were allies against the Serbs but fought each other for 11 months from 1993-1994.?

Praljak, a Croatian politician and general in the the Croatian Army, also commanded Bosnian Croat forces known as the HVO from July to November 1993.?

During this time, Praljak and his allies were trying to establish the 'Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia' - an ethnically Croatian enclave, with the city of Mostar as it's 'capital'.

The Herzeg-Bosnia republic was declared by the Bosnian Croats in 1993, but as part of the peace agreement in 1994, it merged with the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina that we know today.

Slobodan Praljak, center, enters the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, to hear the verdict in the appeals case

Slobodan Praljak, center, enters the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, to hear the verdict in the appeals case

Praljak, a Croatian politician and general in the the Croatian Army, also commanded Bosnian Croat forces known as the HVO from July to November 1993?

Praljak and his allies were trying to establish the 'Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia' - an ethnically Croatian enclave, with the city of Mostar as it's 'capital', during the Bosnian War

Praljak and his allies were trying to establish the 'Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia' - an ethnically Croatian enclave, with the city of Mostar as it's 'capital', during the Bosnian War

Mostar saw the worst of the Croat-Muslim clashes, with nearly 80 per cent of the city's east destroyed in the fighting.

Praljak was specifically charged with ordering the destruction of Mostar's 16th-century bridge in November 1993, which judges in the first trial had said 'caused disproportionate damage to the Muslim civilian population'.

A symbol of Bosnia's devastation in the war, the Ottoman-era bridge was later rebuilt.??

But in their ruling, the judges in fact allowed part of Praljak's appeal, saying the bridge had been a legitimate military target during the conflict.

'It's just an old bridge,' Praljak said in 1993, showing no regard for the emotional effect the destruction had on ordinary Bosnians of all ethnic backgrounds.?

WAR CRIMINAL: THE BOSNIAN-BORN CROAT WHO WANTED AND 'ETHNICALLY PURE' REPUBLIC

Guilty: Slobodan Praljak was one of the leaders of plot to create a Croatian republic in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Guilty: Slobodan Praljak was one of the leaders of plot to create a Croatian republic in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Slobodan Praljak, 72, was born in Capljina, a small town in Bosnia-Herzegovina close to the Croatian border.

After working as a film and TV producer as well as a lecturer in Zagreb, he joined the Croatian army in 1991 advancing to major general.

In March 1992 he became Croatian Deputy Minister of Defence and was later assigned to Croatia's State Commission for relations with the United Nations Protection Force ('UNPROFOR').

He had been brought before the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal accused of establishing and participating in creating an 'ethnically pure' Croatian republic within modern Bosnia-Herzegovina between 1991 to 1994.

The UN tribunal found him guilty of the above as well as participating 'in the ethnic cleansing of the town and municipality of Prozor, of the municipality of Gorjni Vakif, of the towns of Sovici and Doljani, and of the municipality of Mostar, notably by attacking Bosnian Muslims, by the pillage and theft of their property, by massive arrests and by inflicting upon them cruel treatment, sexual violence, killings and other forms of persecution.'

As head of the Bosnian Croat forces known as the HVO, he was responsible for several prison camps where Bosniak Muslims were detained and abused, some of which was so severe that inmates died in the camps.

Slobodan Praljak voluntarily surrendered to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on 5 April 2004.?

He was charged with nine counts of grave breaches of the Geneva conventions - ?including wilful killing; inhuman treatment (sexual assault); unlawful deportation and confinements of civilians ?- nine counts of violations of the laws or customs of war - including cruel treatment unlawful attack on civilians and unlawful infliction of terror on civilians - and?eight counts of crimes against humanity - including persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds; murder; rape; deportation; inhumane acts and imprisonment.?

Source: trialinternational.org

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