A former Bosnian Croat military chief who was convicted for the "ethnic cleansing of the Muslim population" and other war crimes apparently decided to swallow a vial of lethal poison in court rather than face a 20-year prison sentence, The Washington Post reported.
“I am not a war criminal!” shouted Slobodan Praljak, 72, after receiving his sentence, and drank a small vial of liquid.
“I just drank poison,” he said in the confusion that followed.
Praljak was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died of “drinking a liquid that can kill,” said Dutch public prosecution service spokesman Vincent Veenman to Reuters.
“We cannot yet say what that substance was; further testing is needed,” he said. An autopsy and toxicology tests are pending.
Praljak was found guilty in 2013 of an ethnic cleansing campaign on behalf of Bosnian Croats 20 years prior, including the massacre at Stupni Do, which killed more than three dozen civilians, including children.
The military chief, who pleaded not guilty, soon appealed the charge, in one of the last cases for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former country of Yugoslavia.
The tribunal will likely conclude next month, the Post reported. Authorities are now investigating how Praljak was able to sneak a container of poison into court.