The wartime commander of Bosnian Croat forces, Slobodan Praljak, died after he drank poison seconds after a United Nations judges turned down his appeal against a 20-year sentence for war crimes against Bosnian Muslims, Croatian state television reported.
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The television quoted sources close to Praljak as saying he died in a hospital in The Hague.
The events took place in the final minutes of the court's last verdict. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), established by the United Nations in 1993, shuts its doors next month when its mandate expires.
Slobodan Praljak, 72, titled back his head and took a swig from a flask or glass as the judge read out the verdict.
"My client says he drank poison this morning," defense attorney Natasa Faveau-Ivanovic said.
After drinking Praljak told the court: "I am not a war criminal, I oppose this conviction."
The presiding judge suspended the hearing and called for a doctor.
Earlier this month a different, high-profile Bosnian war criminal was brought before the International Court of Justice, where he was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Bosnian Serb military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic was sentenced for life in prison for atrocities during Bosnia's 1992-1995 war.
Following the verdict, Mladic's legal team said he will appeal his conviction. "It is certain we will file an appeal and the appeal will be successful," attorney Dragan Ivetic told journalists.
Mladic, 75, was found guilty of commanding forces responsible for crimes including the worst atrocities of the war — the deadly three-year siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, and the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the eastern enclave of Srebrenica, which was Europe's worst mass killing since World War II.
A three-judge panel at the court formally known as the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia convicted Mladic of 10 of 11 counts in a dramatic climax to a groundbreaking effort to seek justice for the wars in the former Yugoslavia.