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Ex-Croatian military leader dead after drinking poison at war crimes hearing

By Ed Adamczyk
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Ex-Croatian military leader dead after drinking poison at war crimes hearing
A series of four video stills show Slobodan Praljak drinking a substance in court Wednesday during an appeals judgement for war crimes he committed during the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Photo by EPA-EFE/ICTY

Nov. 29 (UPI) -- A former Croatian military and political leader died Wednesday after he drank a bottle of poison -- just moments after a conviction on war crimes was upheld in a Dutch courtroom.

Slobodan Praljak appeared in court Wednesday and lost his appeal of a 20-year conviction in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Moments after the verdict, he stood and said, "Prajlak is not a criminal. I reject your verdict."

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Praljak, 72, then dramatically took a small brown bottle from his pocket and drank its contents.

Praljak's attorney then shouted, "My client has taken poison."

Court was suspended immediately. Curtains surrounding the courtroom were drawn and emergency medical personnel rushed in to treat the former leader.

Hrvatska Radiotelevizija, Croatia's state television, announced that Praljak later died in a hospital in The Hague.

Judges in Praljak's first trial convicted him of causing "disproportionate damage to the Muslim civilian population" in the city of East Mostar -- a city famous for its iconic 16th century bridge that was destroyed at Praljak's command.

Bosnian Croatians and Muslims were allied against Serbians in the war, but fought each other in 1993 and 1994. Praljak commanded Croatian forces known as the HVO.

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Praljak was convicted of the war crimes with five other Croat politicians in 2013.

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