A convicted Bosnian Croat war criminal declared his innocence — and then imposed his own death penalty.
Ex-general Slobodan Praljak slugged down a fatal dose of poison Wednesday in a Netherlands international court where he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for murder and other crimes during the early ’90s civil war.
“I reject your verdict!” the 72-year-old Praljak declared before draining the lethal liquid from a small bottle during a live feed of the sentencing. “I am not a war criminal!”
Gasps filled the United Nations court in The Hague, Netherlands, with Praljak declaring the bottle held poison and Judge Carmel Agius quickly suspending the hearing.
Serbian general convicted for genocide that killed 8,000 Muslims
Praljak died a short time later at a nearby hospital in The Hague, shortly after Agius confirmed his sentence of 20 years for war crimes.
The former philosophy professor and theater director became a military commander who surrendered to authorities in April 2004.
He was convicted nine years later for participating in a bloody effort to create a Croat-controlled state in Bosnia by killing and deporting Muslims.
In addition to murder, Praljak was convicted of persecution and inhumane treatment.
Praljak and five co-defendants all had their sentences upheld before his suicide brought the hearing to a shocking conclusion.
His case was one of the last to be decided at a tribunal for ethnic war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, the worst outbreak of violence in Europe since the end of World War II.
Part of his command included the destruction of the Ottoman bridge in Mostar, an architectural wonder that was also essential to Muslim residents.
Last week, the tribunal sentenced Gen. Ratko Mladic, the ethnic Serb and “Butcher of the Balkans,” to life in prison for genocide against Bosnian Muslims.
With News Wire Services
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