A former Bosnian Croat general has died after taking poison during the reading of his verdict at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, according to AP, citing Croatian TV reports.
Slobodan Praljak, 72, a former wartime leader, was seen drinking from a small container as he heard the verdict of his appeal hearing. The man’s defense lawyer then told the court that the accused had “taken poison.” The presiding judge stopped the proceedings and ordered a doctor to be called, Reuters reports.
The tribunal spokesperson did not confirm the death, when asked by the AP.
A UN judge who later called the site a “crime scene” said that Dutch police are investigating the incident.
Prior to drinking the substance, Praljak had heard that his 20-year sentence for alleged war crimes in the Bosnian city of Mostar was being upheld. Praljak, who was one of six former Bosnian Croats having their appeal heard at the UN tribunal, is reported to have told the judge that he is not “a war criminal.”
He is accused of ordering the destruction of Mostar’s 16th-century bridge in November 1993, an act that, judges said, “caused disproportionate damage to the Muslim civilian population.” All of Praljak’s fellow defendants were convicted in 2013 of the persecution and murder of Muslims during the Bosnian war.
A live broadcast from inside the court was cut off shortly after Praljak’s pronouncement. Reports suggest the judge asked that Praljak’s glass be preserved as evidence. Emergency services are at the scene.