War crimes defendant opposes conviction, 'drinks poison' in court

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A courtroom in the Hague is now considered a crime scene after a war crimes appeal hearing was cut short when one defendant drank what appeared to be poison upon hearing the verdict.

A Bosnian Croat war criminal killed himself in dramatic fashion after losing an appeal of his 20-year prison sentence before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

The astonishment on the face of the presiding judge as Praljak responded to his sentence by drinking a deadly draft made clear just how extraordinary the breach was - reminiscent of Goering's death by cyanide capsule on the eve of his execution in 1946. Police in The Hague declined comment on the case.

According to Croatian State Agency HINA, a helicopter has been sent for Praljak.

Praljak had received a confirmation of his 20-year sentence.

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The former high-level politicians and defence officials were convicted in 2013 of participating in an "ethnic cleansing" campaign against Bosnian Muslims.

Dutch police, an ambulance and a fire truck quickly arrived outside the court's headquarters and emergency service workers, some of them wearing helmets and with oxygen tanks on their backs, went into the court shortly after the incident.

The groundbreaking ICTY is to finally close next month.

The Tribunal was set up in 1993, while fighting still raged in the former Yugoslavia, and has indicted 161 suspects for war crimes and convicted 90 individuals.

The court's original conviction said Tudjman played a leading role in a plan to create a small Croat state in Bosnia.

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