BELGRADE, Serbia A Serbian judge gave preliminary approval on Friday to transfer the captured fugitive Ratko Mladic to The Hague on war crimes charges, but his lawyer said he would appeal as the former generals family prepared to seek his immediate hospitalization.The appeal is to be heard on Monday before a three-judge panel. If that hearing confirms Fridays ruling, final authorization for his transfer must be made by the Serbian Justice Ministry.
His son, Darko Mladic who in the past contended with other family members that the former military commander, 68, was dead visited his father twice on Thursday immediately after his arrest was announced by President Boris Tadic.
While Mr. Mladics wife stood on the sidelines, his son stood in front of the courthouse on Friday to describe a litany of the prisoners health problems. He said that Mr. Mladics right hand was partly paralyzed and that he could not move his fingers. A brain scan showed damage from two strokes, he said.
He is in very poor health, Darko Mladic said, demanding an evaluation by a team of doctors from Russia, which has historically been sympathetic to its ally and has called for a fair trial for Mr. Mladic. When asked when he had last seen his father before his capture, he did not answer directly. Next question, he said.
Despite his health problems, Mr. Mladic was present in court. He challenged one prosecutor to play chess with him in his jail cell, requested a television and asked for Russian classics to read. He also asked for another privilege: fresh strawberries.
For all the money you have taken from me, I think I deserve some strawberries, his lawyer, Milos Saljic, quoted his client as saying.
A prosecutor volunteered to bring the television and strawberries, Mr. Saljic said.
Mr. Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military leader, eluded capture for more than 15 years and was wanted by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague on genocide charges for his role in the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica.
He was arrested on Thursday, signaling Serbias intention of finally escaping the isolation it brought on itself during the Balkan wars, the bloodiest in Europe since World War II.
The capture of Mr. Mladic removes a major obstacle to Serbias becoming a member of the European Union, which had insisted that he be apprehended and turned over for trial in an international court before the country could get on track to join.
Mr. Tadic gave few details in announcing the arrest on Thursday but promised that Mr. Mladic would be turned over for trial in The Hague within days.
I think today we finished a difficult period in our recent history, he said. For Europeans, buffeted by financial crises, the arrest of their most wanted war crimes suspect has a resonance on the magnitude of the killing of Osama bin Laden for Americans. It also amounts to a significant diplomatic victory, suggesting that the incentive of membership in the worlds biggest trading bloc remains a crucial foreign policy tool in the post-cold war world.
Mr. Mladic had been at large for 15 years, and many European diplomats argued that Serbian officials could have arrested him long ago if they felt that the benefits of opening the door wider to the West outweighed appeals to virulent nationalism among some Serbs, who still regard Mr. Mladic as a hero.
Mr. Mladic was captured in the farming town of Lazarevo north of Belgrade after the authorities received a tip that a man resembling him was living there. Serbias interior minister, Ivica Dacic, said that Mr. Mladic had been found with his own expired identification card and an old military book. Some Serbian news reports said that he had been living under the name of Milorad Komadic and that he had worked in construction. But the Interior Ministry said Thursday that it did not have evidence suggesting that he had taken on a false identity.
The massacre at Srebrenica was the worst ethnically motivated mass murder in Europe since World War II. Mr. Mladic is also accused of war crimes for the three-and-a-half-year siege of Sarajevo, in which 10,000 people died, including 3,500 children.
While close associates had predicted that Mr. Mladic would sooner kill himself than face capture, Serbian news media reported that he was alone at the time of his arrest and that he had two pistols with him that he did not try to use. The police said he did not resist arrest. Witnesses said that he appeared disoriented and tired, and that one of his hands appeared to be paralyzed, possibly because of a stroke.
Many of the 27 members of the European Union had been in favor of rewarding Belgrade for its recent tilt toward Europe and the United States by advancing its move toward membership. But some, especially the Netherlands, had insisted that as long as Mr. Mladic remained free, Serbia could not join the union.
Mr. Mladics crimes remained an emotional issue for the Dutch, whose peacekeepers were overrun at Srebrenica, allowing Mr. Mladics soldiers to mow down men and boys, their hands tied behind their backs.
Extradition is happening, Mr. Tadic said on Thursday, referring to The Hague. This is the end of the search for Mladic. Its not the end of the search for all those who helped Mladic and others to hide and whether people from the government were involved.
Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb political leader and Mr. Mladics former boss, is being tried in The Hague on charges of genocide for his role in the Balkan bloodshed. Slobodan Milosevic, the nationalist former president of Serbia and the architect of the war, died in 2006 while his trial was under way.
The arrest comes at a crucial moment. Serge Brammertz, the chief prosecutor of the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague, was expected to release a report in the next few days saying that Serbia was not cooperating with the international effort to apprehend Mr. Mladic.