Private funeral for war criminal Praljak, lawyer says

Zagreb (AFP) –


Bosnian Croat war criminal Slobodan Praljak, who killed himself in front of UN judges in The Hague this week, will have a private funeral, his lawyer said Saturday.

Praljak, in dramatic scenes Wednesday, swallowed poison before the UN tribunal judges, just moments after they upheld his 20-year jail sentence.

The 72-year-old was rushed to hospital, where he died the same day.

The preliminary results of an autopsy showed Friday that Praljak likely died from heart failure after swallowing potassium cyanide.

In a sealed letter handed over to his family a few years ago, to be opened when he dies, Praljak said he wanted that his funeral be a private one, his lawyer Nika Pinter told AFP.

"The letter was in no way linked with what happened Wednesday," she stressed without revealing its details.

"We (Praljak and lawyer) were talking about how once a person turns 60 one needs to look back and settle some things," she commented.

The Vecernji list daily reported earlier that Praljak wanted to be cremated at Zagreb's main Mirogoj cemetery and his ashes scattered there.

"I believe he did not want that his funeral possibly turns into a mass gathering, a circus ... to avoid possible abuse" for political goals, Pinter said.

"He simply wanted to remain with his family."

The lawyer said she had no knowledge on when Praljak's body would be transferred from The Netherlands.

A Dutch judge informed her that a letter addressed to her was also found in Praljak's cell.

It will be handed over to Pinter once the probe into his death is over.

The Bosnian Croat commander, who worked in film and theatre before joining the military, remains a hero to many Croats despite his conviction for war crimes and crimes against humanity during Bosnia's 1990s conflict.

The judges confirmed that Praljak and his five Bosnian Croat co-defendants were part of a "joint criminal enterprise" to ethnically cleanse Bosnian Muslims in the war.

Their convictions were upheld for crimes including murder, persecution and inhumane treatment.

Since Praljak's death, Croats have paid multiple tributes to the late general, laying flowers and lighting candles in town squares in Croatia and Bosnia.

Croatia's Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said earlier that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) verdict was one of "deep moral injustice."