Bosnian Serb ex-military commander Ratko Mladic on Monday appealed his transfer to a United Nations court, where he faces genocide and war crimes charges, after thousands rallied in Belgrade against his arrest.
His lawyer said he filed the appeal -- citing Mladic's health problems -- and sent it by registerd delivery at 5:30 p.m. in an effort to delay the captured general's departure from Belgrade. The court now needs to wait a day for the appeal to arrive, after which, under Serbian court procedures, it has three days to rule on it.
However, if the appeal is dismissed, Mladic could be on a plane as early as Tuesday night to the Netherlands and the U.N. prison for war criminals from the former Yugoslavia, which also houses Radovan Karadzic, his former commander in chief.
In 2008, lawyers acting for Karadzic, Mladic's co-accused, attempted a similar ploy after he was arrested. But the appeal was lost in the mail and Karadzic was extradited five days later.
"I believe the trial will not go ahead, because I do not believe Mladic will see the start of that process in front of the Hague Tribunal," Mladic's lawyer, Milos Saljic, said. "His health is in an alarming state. it is necessary that he is examined by cardiologists, neurosurgeons, orthopedists and gastroenterologists."
Bruno Vekaric, the deputy war crimes prosecutor in Serbia, believes the appeal is merely tactical, because local doctors have concluded that Mladic is well enough to withstand a transfer for trial. "The Hague has never dropped an indictment against anyone on account of health problems," Nerma Jelacic, a Hague Tribunal spokeswoman, told ABC News. "Doctors will examine him as soon as he is transferred to the Hague."
"If he "has any medical problems, they will be treated either in the detention unit, where we have a medical unit, or outside, where we have access to civilian medical facilities, hospitals and specialists for specific illnesses," she said.
The War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague has indicted Mladic for war crimes that include the 1992 campaign of ethnic cleansing in eastern Bosnia, the establishment of concentration camps in the northwest of Bosnia, a three-year siege of Sarajevo, the taking of U.N. hostages in 1995 during NATO air strikes and the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
Prosecutors in the Hague said they are currently considering whether to merge the trials of Mladic and Radovan Karadzic. The two men face the same indictment, but Karadzic's trial began in October 2009.
Mladic was captured last week in a village north of Belgrade, some 16 years after the indictment was issued.
Meanwhile, the Serbian government denied that Mladic's arrest had resulted from a secret deal with the West. The minister in charge of relations with the Hague tribunal, Rasim Ljajic, said at a press conference today: "We have arrested Mladic when we could, when we could reach him, and when we were sure we were following the right trail."
Ljajic gave new details of Mladic's movements during his years on the run from an international arrest.
During Slobodan Milosvic's rule, Maldic stayed in three army barracks -- at Stragari, Rajac and Krcmar -- Ljajic said. After Milosevic was ousted and sent to the Hague, and a new government signed an agreement with the tribunal to pursue Mladic in 2002, his supporters transferred him to an apartment in Belgrade. In 2005, he was taken to the village of Ljube, and to three more locations before his arrest.
There have been unconfirmed reports in the Serbian press that Mladic was sheltered by priests from the Serbian Orthodox church. Ljajic said the government was investigating whether members of the state security services and the clergy had helped Mladic to evade justice.