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Slobodan Praljak

The defendant who claimed to drink poison in a UN war crimes court reportedly has died


Updated November 29, 2017 09:41 AM EST

Slobodan Praljak has died after claiming to have ingested poison in a United Nations (U.N.) war crimes court, according to Croatia's state TV.

Prajak, 72, drank from a small brown bottle after judges upheld his 20-year sentence.

Dutch police refused to comment on the report, which was based on "sources close to Gen. Prajak."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The United Nations’ (U.N.) war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia on Wednesday erupted in chaos when a defendant said he drank poison, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

AFP on Wednesday reported that Slobodan Praljak, 72, made the claim while protesting the upholding of his 20-year jail term in The Hague, the Netherlands.

“Praljak is not a criminal,” the former Bosnian Croat military commander yelled angrily. “I reject your verdict.”

Praljak then raised a small brown bottle to his lips, drinking it in plain sight of the cameras filming the hearing.

“My client says he has taken poison,” Praljak’s lawyer shouted, prompting the hearing’s suspension.

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Presiding Judge Carmel Agius quickly ordered the proceedings suspended and the curtains screening the courtroom were abruptly closed to the public.

Several emergency workers then rushed into the building carrying equipment in backpacks, and AFP reported that an ambulance also arrived outside the tribunal.

A court guard for the International criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) then appealed for calm.

“[He’s] receiving all necessary medical attention,” they said of Praljak, adding that the defendant remained alive.

Wednesday’s hearings marked the ICTY’s final verdicts for war crimes committed during Yugoslavia’s breakup in the 1990s.

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Praljak was specifically charged with ordering the destruction of a 16th-century bridge in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1993.

Judges in Praljak’s first trial said that the move “caused disproportionate damage to the Muslim civilian population” in Mostar.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s war from 1992 to 1995 killed 100,000 people and displaced 2.2 million more.

The conflict mainly featured violence between Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Serbs before its conclusion.

Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Muslims also engaged in bloodshed, however, after an initial alliance between both sides collapsed.

The ICTY closes on December 31, and the tribunal has indicted and dealt with 61 people involved in the fighting so far.

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