Candle vigil for Croat wartime criminal who drank ‘deadly’ poison

A Bosnian Croat woman lights a candle in memory of Slobodan Praljak, in the southern Bosnian town of Mostar 140 kms south of Sarajevo. Picture: AP Photo/Amel Emric
A Bosnian Croat woman lights a candle in memory of Slobodan Praljak, in the southern Bosnian town of Mostar 140 kms south of Sarajevo. Picture: AP Photo/Amel Emric
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Hundreds of Bosnian Croats lit candles in public squares in cities around the country in honour of Slobodan Praljak, who drank poison moments after a UN judge confirmed his 20-year war crimes sentence and later died.

Mr Praljak’s photos were plastered in Croat-dominated cities around Bosnia yesterday where police presence was increased to prevent incidents.

The tributes came as a Dutch prosecutor confirmed a deadly chemical had been in the container from which Mr Praljak drank shortly before dying as an independent investigation into his dramatic death continued.

“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,” prosecutor Marilyn Fikenscher said yesterday.

Mr Praljak, 72, stunned the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on Wednesday when he gulped down liquid from a small bottle.

The wartime commander of Bosnian Croat forces said in court that he had taken poison. He was rushed to a Hague hospital, but died there.

Mr Praljak’s lawyer, Nina Pinter, was quoted by Croatia’s Hina news agency as saying “it has never occurred to me that he could do something like that”.

Ms Pinter described Mr Praljak as “an honourable man who could not live with the war crimes conviction and leave that courtroom handcuffed”.

Mr Praljak was originally convicted in 2013 of crimes including murder, persecution and deportation for his role in a plan to carve out a Bosnian Croat ministate in Bosnia in the early 1990s.

Mr Fikenscher said that an autopsy, including toxicological tests, will be carried out soon on Mr Praljak’s body.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said Mr Praljak wanted to send a message to the UN court the verdict against him was unjust. Mr Plenkovic said the former general was “obviously shaken by the possibility he would be convicted” of war crimes for his actions during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.

Mr Praljak was honoured by some as a hero following his death. “Praljak was a legend for us… he will live forever in our heats,” said Ivica Gavric, who was a member of the Bosnian Croat forces during the 1990s war.

The European Union called on the Balkan leaders to respect the rulings of the UN war crimes court and work to achieve reconciliation and good relations.

“Delivering justice and 
fighting impunity are fundamental principles,” the EU delegation in Bosnia said in a statement.