Praljak trial: Bosnian Croat war criminal 'takes poison' in court

A former Bosnian Croat general drank poison while in a courtroom being sentenced to 20 years for war crimes.

The unprecedented scenes came as judges were handing down judgment in the appeals case of six former Bosnian Croat political and military leaders.

Resuming a few hours later amid confusion, presiding judge Carmel Agius revealed Dutch authorities had already launched an investigation into the incident.

Former war correspondent Martin Bell - who covered the Bosnian war and met Praljak on several occasions - told Sky News he was not surprised by his "theatrical" demise.

Praljak's condition, and whether he actually drank poison, are unknown.

The 72-year-old former commander of the Bosnian forces during the 1992 to 1995 conflict was one of six military and political officials receiving appeal sentences Wednesday, which was due to be the last session of the global tribunal set up by the United Nations in 1993 with the motto "bringing war criminals to justice and justice to the victims".

In their ruling, the judges allowed part of Praljak's appeal, saying the bridge had been "a military target at the time of the attack".

Croatia's Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic slammed the "injustice" of the United Nations tribunal and expressed his condolences.

Praljak, 72, was convicted for trying to create an ethnically pure Croatian state during the Bosnian war in the 1990s, which sparked by the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Earlier an ambulance arrived at the court in The Hague to examine him.

Two other suspects had also had their sentences upheld before the hearing was halted, including the former prime minister of a Croat entity in Bosnia, Jadranko Prlic, who was sentenced to 25 years. Of the 161 individuals indicted by the ICTY, the body created specifically to prosecute wartime crimes, 94 are ethnic Serbs, compared to 29 Croats, nine Albanians and nine Bosniaks.

Tudjman's son, Miroslav, said Praljak's move was a "consequence of his moral position not to accept the verdict that has nothing to do with justice or reality".

Last week it convicted former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic of genocide and other crimes.

He was appealing his punishment before Wednesday's hearing confirmed his 20 year sentence for involvement in driving out Bosnian Muslims of a potential Bosnian Croat state.

The chamber acquitted the defendants on charges of crimes committed against civilians in Mostar. The six surrendered with Croatia under pressure to comply with the court in return for joining the European Union.