15:10 GMT10 July 2020
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    Shock from the suicide-by-poisoning death of Bosnian Croat commander Slobodan Praljak at The Hague on Wednesday continues to reverberate as observers try to figure out how the military leader brought a bottle of poison into the courtroom. Speaking to Sputnik, one of his lawyers said she was shocked by what happened.

    The UN confirmed Wednesday that Praljak died in hospital after drinking what is thought to be a small bottle of poison in the courtroom, just hours after a judge handed down a 20-year jail sentence during an appeal hearing at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Praljak was charged for war crimes committed during the Bosnian War. The moment when he took the poison was captured on court cameras.

    Natasa Favo Ivanovic, one of Praljak's lawyers, offered insight into the details of Wednesday's deadly incident via a telephone interview with Sputnik Serbia.

    First things first, Ivanovic stressed that the defense was just as surprised as everyone else when Praljak reached for the deadly cocktail. "I really don't have the slightest idea how it was possible for someone to get poison into the courtroom," she said.

    The lawyer added that of course someone must be held accountable for the incident.

    "I really cannot talk about this at the moment; the question [of accountability] arose immediately, and all the legal possibilities must be studied. Of course, someone must be made to answer."

    Furthermore, she said that in her opinion, "it's necessary to raise both the issue of responsibility, and the methods by which the court works in general, and not only in connection with the issue of taking poisons in the courtroom."

    Confirming that she was present in the courtroom as Praljak made his fateful decision, Ivanovic said that she didn't see the exact moment it happened because she was seated with her back turned to him. 

    On the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels
    © Sputnik / Alexey Vitvitsky
    The ex-commander was a "very grateful client," she said. "He never bothered us with anything unrelated to his legal case. He called me on New Year's…This morning in court I saw him only as I greeted him."

    Asked to assess the work of the Hague Tribunal as a whole amid the drama of today's events, Ivanovic suggested that they confirm the ineffectiveness of the court's work.

    "What happened today, and what happened a week ago at [ex-Bosnian Serb commander Ratko] Mladic's verdict, as well as what happened during the trial of [ex-Serbian President Slobodan] Milosevic, when he was interrupted and his microphone was switched off – none of this should happen in an international criminal court. I think these events adequately show how this court works. That is my opinion."

    Praljak drank the small bottle of poison after making an impromptu statement insisting he was not a war criminal. The hearing was suspended and the judge called for an ambulance. The courtroom has been declared a crime scene, and police are now conducting an investigation into the incident.

    The ex-commander was one of six former Bosnian Croat military leaders convicted for the murders of Bosnian Muslims during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War.

    Last week, the ICTY sentenced ex-Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic to life in prison for crimes against humanity in a controversial ruling.

    trial, court, lawyer, poisoning, International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Slobodan Praljak, The Hague
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