War-crimes suspect ingests 'poison' during court ruling

Bosnian Croat war criminal 'drinks poison' at Hague hearing

A total of 100,000 people died and 2.2 million were displaced in the three-year war.

A CROATIAN warlord who "died after drinking poison in court" could easily smuggle the liquid in, a lawyer has claimed.

Praljak was among six former leaders of the wartime "Croat Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia (Herceg-Bosna)" - whose guilty verdicts were confirmed today by the Appeals Chamber.

He committed suicide when Carmel Agius, the presiding judge, read out a verdict rejecting his appeal.

A lawyer for Praljak, a commander of ethnic Croatians during the 1990s war in Bosnia, said that his client had poisoned himself and emergency services rushed to the scene.

Slobodan Praljak, 72, a former wartime leader, was seen drinking from a small container as he heard the verdict of his appeal hearing.

Though allies against the Bosnian Serbs in the 1992-95 war, Bosnian Croats and Muslims also fought each other for a period of 11 months, with Mostar seeing some of the fiercest fighting.

Earlier an ambulance arrived at the court in The Hague to examine him. It's also important to note that while the courts overturned some of Praljak's convictions, they refused to reduce his sentence.

Ironically, Praljak, who surrendered to the tribunal in April 2004 and had already been jailed for 13 years, could have soon walked free because those who are convicted are generally released after serving two-thirds of their sentences.

Zagreb has also expressed anger at the United Nations judges for upholding a finding that the late Croat president Franjo Tudman was part of a plan to create a ministate in Bosnia.

There was no immediate indication that Praljak had been taken away for treatment.

The judges upheld a 25-year prison term against Jadranko Prlić, the former prime minister of a breakaway Bosnian Croat statelet, and a 20-year term for its former defence minister Bruno Stojić.

He was appealing his punishment before Wednesday's hearing confirmed his 20 year sentence for involvement in driving out Bosnian Muslims of a potential Bosnian Croat state.

The crimes Praljak were convicted for stem from the destruction of a 16th century bridge in November of 1993, which the judges said "caused disproportionate damage to the Muslim civilian population".

Gen. Ratko Mladic, known as the "Butcher of Bosnia", was convicted last week of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and given a life sentence. The six surrendered with Croatia under pressure to comply with the court in return for joining the European Union.