Police investigating how war criminal Praljak got chemical into courtroom

Dutch police have launched an investigation into the abrupt and shocking death of war criminal Slobodan Praljak, who swallowed a vial of poison after an international court upheld his conviction.

Slobodan Praljak enters the court in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday before committing suicide by drinking a chemical substance from a vial. Photo by Robin Van Lonkhuijsen/EPA
Slobodan Praljak enters the court in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday before committing suicide by drinking a chemical substance from a vial. Photo by Robin Van Lonkhuijsen/EPA

Praljak drank the liquid Wednesday during a hearing at the Yugoslavia tribunal in the Hague, in which the court upheld a war crimes conviction against the former Croatian military and political leader stemming from the Bosnian war in the 1990s. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The 72-year-old stood and drank the substance and said, “I just drank poison. I am not a war criminal. I oppose this conviction” after losing the appeal.

The criminal tribunal has now requested that police look into how the chemical substance was brought into the courtroom.

“There was a preliminary test of the substance in the container and all I can say for now is that there was a chemical substance in that container that can cause death,” Dutch prosecutor Marilyn Fikenscher said.

Dutch forensic analysts will perform an autopsy on Praljak’s body and toxicology research will shed light on the substance and exact cause of death.

Judges in Praljak’s first trial in 2013 convicted him and five others of war crimes that they said caused “disproportionate damage to the Muslim civilian population.”

Although Bosnian Croatians and Muslims were allied against Serbians in the war, they fought each other in 1993 and 1994 when Praljak commanded Croatian forces known as the HVO.

By Sara Shayanian