A Serbian court rejects an appeal against the extradition of Ratko Mladic, allowing the former Bosnian-Serb general to be tried in the Hague for war crimes.
The Belgrade court took just hours to make its decision after receiving the appeal papers on Tuesday morning.
The 69-year-old will be extradited to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) “as soon as possible,” Bruno Vekaric, Serbia’s deputy war crimes prosecutor, told the AP news agency.
The extradition order must first be signed by Serbia’s justice minister, who will hold a news conference later on Tuesday, meaning Gen Mladic could be put on a flight to The Hague later in the day.
Mladic is charged by the tribunal for atrocities committed by Serb forces during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
The former commander is accused of genocide during the four year siege of Sarajevo, and of ordering the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.
Read more: Who is Ratko Mladic?
His lawyers argued he was too ill to travel to the court in the Netherlands, saying he had suffered a number of strokes and had a paralysed arm.
Milos Saljic, representing Mladic, said he was not mentally and physically fit to stand trial and asked for a team of doctors to examine his client.
But Doctors who examined him on Friday said he was fit enough to be extradited.
Mladic, who was found in alone in a cousin’s farmhouse north of Belgrade, was able to hide for 16 years, holding back Serbia’s progress in joining the EU.
His son Darko Mladic said on Sunday that his father insists he “had nothing to do with” the Srebrenica massacre and had in fact saved lives.
On Tuesday morning, Mladic was allowed on a police-escorted visit to the Belgrade grave of his daughter Ana, who committed suicide in 1994.
Ana Mladic, who was 23, reportedly shot herself with her father’s favourite pistol after she read about his alleged crimes in a magazine.
Signalling deep ethnic divisions, around 10,000 Bosnian Serbs pledged support for their wartime commander in the Serb Republic’s capital Banja Luka.
Buses arrived from across the Serb Republic, many filled with his former soldiers bearing his photo.
“There are more Mladics in Serbia, they grow and will continue where he stopped,” Srdjan Nogo of the ultra-nationalist organisation Srpske Dveri from Belgrade told the crowd.
The crowd also criticised Serbia’s President Boris Tadic, who many Serbs now see as a traitor because he gave the green light for Mladic’s arrest. “Boris, kill yourself, save Serbia,” they chanted.
After the war, Bosnia was split into a Serb Republic and a federation of Muslims known as Bosniaks and Croats under a weak central government.
While Serbs see Mladic as the Serb defender, Bosnian Muslims think of him as a ruthless military commander who ordered mass killings across the Balkan country during a war that killed more than 100,000, most of them Muslims.
“I cannot believe these people are glorifying Ratko Mladic today and show no empathy for deaths of thousands of victims that Mladic is responsible for,” said Edina Ramulic, the head of the Izvor organisation of families of killed and missing people from the northwestern Prijedor area.
“It really hurts and I also feel fear and discomfort as such a rally shows that we are going back to the 1990s,” she said.