Sun | Dec 17, 2017

Prosecutor: Container Croat drank from held deadly chemical

Published:Friday | December 1, 2017 | 12:00 AM
In this photo provided by the ICTY on Wednesday, Slobodan Praljak brings a bottle to his lips, during a Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. Praljak yelled, "I am not a war criminal!" and appeared to drink from a small bottle, seconds after judges reconfirmed his 20-year prison sentence for involvement in a campaign to drive Muslims out of a would-be Bosnian Croat ministate in Bosnia in the early 1990s.

THE HAGUE (AP):

A deadly chemical was in the container from which a Croat war criminal drank shortly before dying, a Dutch prosecutor said yesterday, as an independent investigation into the dramatic death of Slobodan Praljak moved forward.

"There was a preliminary test of the substance in the container and all I can say for now is that there was a chemical substance in that container that can cause death," Prosecutor Marilyn Fikenscher told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. She declined to elaborate on the exact nature of the substance.

Praljak, 72, stunned the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on Wednesday when he gulped down liquid from a small bottle seconds after a UN appeals judge confirmed a 20-year sentence against him.

The wartime commander of Bosnian Croat forces said in court that he had taken poison. He was rushed to a Hague hospital but died there, tribunal spokesman Nenad Golcevski said.

Praljak's lawyer, Nika Pinter, said yesterday that she never expected him to kill himself and does know how he obtained the fatal liquid, given the court's strict security.

Pinter described Praljak to Croatia's Hina news agency as "an honourable man who could not live with the war crimes conviction and leave that courtroom handcuffed".

Praljak was originally convicted in 2013 of crimes including murder, persecution and deportation for his role in a plan to carve out a Bosnian Croat ministate in Bosnia in the early 1990s.

Fikenscher said that an autopsy, including toxicological tests, will be carried out soon on Praljak's body.