BELGRADE - Ratko Mladic received family visits in a Serbian jail and ordered strawberries to eat, but as early as Monday the former general, nabbed in a predawn raid, could be on his way to facing a war-crimes tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands.
There he could possibly join his former political ally, Radovan Karadzic, on trial for some of the worst horrors of the Balkan wars.
The former Bosnian Serb army commander known for his cruelty and arrogance began issuing demands from behind bars Friday, calling for a television set and Tolstoy novels, and regaining some of his trademark hubris after the raid in a Serbian village the day before ended his 16 years on the run.
His family said that he was too ill to stand up to the rigors of a genocide trial and that he's not guilty of any crimes, including his alleged role in the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II - the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the Srebrenica enclave in Bosnia.
Serbia's war-crimes court ruled Friday that the 69-year-old was fit to stand trial and that conditions had been met for him to be handed over to the U.N. tribunal in the Hague.
A defense lawyer said Mladic would appeal the decision Monday. Mladic could be extradited within hours if the appeal is rejected.
His defense demanded that an "independent medical commission" examine Mladic - preferably one from Russia, a historical friend of the Serbs. Instead, the government dispatched the health minister, a former friend, who deemed him stable.
Serbian war-crimes prosecutors argued that the defense was simply trying to delay the extradition.
Mladic was in command of the Bosnian Serb army during the country's 1992-95 war, which left more than 100,000 people dead and drove 1.8 million from their homes. Thousands of Muslims and Croats were slain, tortured, or expelled in a campaign to purge the region of non-Serbs.
His ruthlessness was legendary: "Burn their brains!" he yelled as his men pounded Sarajevo with artillery fire.
He had eluded war-crimes investigators ever since his 1995 indictment by the U.N. court on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
A police photo of Mladic showed him looking hollow-cheeked and shrunken after a decade and a half on the run, a far cry from the beefy commander he once was.
The chief prosecutor of the Yugoslav war-crimes tribunal said he was considering whether to put Mladic on trial together with former Bosnian Serb political leader Karadzic.