Croat War Criminal Left Death Note Two Years Before Poisoning Himself
Everyone was shocked earlier this week when Bosnian Croat warlord Slobodan Praljak downed a vial of poison in court during his war crimes trial at the Hague.
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But it turned out that Praljak left a death note for his family two years before he killed himself while he awaited the result of his appeal against his conviction.
In the note, Praljak told his wife and step-children he didn't want a grave or funeral, requesting for his ashes to be scattered over a cemetery in the Croatian capital of Zagreb instead.
The letter was stored at his Zagreb apartment with a specific request for it not to be opened until his death, according to a family friend of Praljak.
The general was first convicted of crimes against humanity in 2013 and sentenced to 20 years in jail before he attended a court hearing on Wednesday to appeal the sentence.
As the judge upheld his punishment, Praljak stood up and shouted: "Praljak is not a criminal. I reject your verdict," before downing a mystery liquid from a small bottle.
"I just drank poison," Praljak said when he had finished drinking from the bottle. "I am not a war criminal. I oppose this conviction."
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The hearing was immediately suspended and an ambulance rushed to the scene but Praljak was pronounced dead several hours later.
Dutch police are now trying to figure out how Praljak managed to sneak the poison into court, with lawyers, security guards and court officials all suspects in what is now being treated as a crime.
Mate Lausic, a witness at the trial, told the Croatian newspaper 24sata that Praljak had most likely smuggled the vial into the court via his suit.
"The case had lasted for 13 years so everything was more relaxed," Lausic said. "In the cell the suspect gets a suit to go to court. The 'sterilisation' check was not done."
It is believed that this could have allowed someone to give Praljak the poison, or for him to gotten hold of it himself in prison and taken it through security.
A former prisoner at Scheveningen, where suspected war criminals tried at The Hague are held, said it wouldn't have been difficult for Praljak to get hold of the poison. The prison is known as the 'Hague Hilton' because of its low security and relatively luxurious facilities.
"Slobodan Praljak was behaving like a gentleman so they were approaching him like that as well," the former prisoner said, according to the Mail. "If he wanted to get poison, he could easily get it.
"Someone has helped him on purpose. One needed to know exactly what poison to get and where to get it. Someone has fulfilled his last wish. I am convinced it was someone from the personnel of the Hague court."
The substance that Praljak drank to poison himself is widely believed to have been toilet cleaner.
A lawyer familiar with the war crimes court told the AP that it would have been easy for Praljak to bring the poison into court as security officers routinely let through 'pills and small quantities of liquids'.
Praljak was one of six Croats sentenced to jail for their involvement in persecuting, expelling and murdering Muslims during the 1992-95 Bosnian War.
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