Serbian judges have rejected an appeal by wartime General Ratko Mladic against his extradition, and a Serbian minister said the Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic is on a plane from Belgrade to the Dutch city of The Hague to face trial on charges of genocide.
The lawyers defending the 69-year-old Mladic had argued he is not in good enough health to face trial at The Hague. But ruling on appeal, Serbian judges stood by the decision made last Friday after doctors said he was fit for the trip.
A special police convoy transported Mladic from the Belgrade courthouse and jail complex to the Serbian capital's airport, where he boarded the flight.
As judges paved the way for Mladic’s extradition, about 10,000 Bosnian Serbs protested against his arrest.
Mladic was an army general during Bosnia’s civil war and many Bosnian Serbs consider him a wartime hero.
They gathered on the streets of Bosnian city Banja Luka. One former Bosnian-Serb soldier said Mladic, for him, is a symbol of freedom.
He said Mladic is an invincible Serb hero and immortal for the Serb Republic.
Mladic is accused of orchestrating a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Muslims during the civil war in the 1990s, namely at Srebrenica in 1995, when about 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed.
His arrest also appears to be stoking historic tensions between Serbs and Bosnian Muslims.
London School of Economics southeast Europe expert James Ker-Lindsay said it is important that Mladic’s trial proceeds quickly.
Former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic died in custody at The Hague before his trial ended and Ker-Lindsay said that must not be repeated.
"I think after Slobodan Milosevic died while he was on trial, there was a real sense that this can not be allowed to happen again," he said. "Every step will be taken to make sure that General Mladic is kept in as best health as possible."
Ker-Lindsay said prosecutors at The Hague will try to keep the trial straight forward so that it does not drag on.
"Rather than try and go for a mass case taking in as many different charges as possible, to narrowly focus it down, to concentrate on just what is necessary in order to get that key conviction and show the world that justice has been done in this case," he said.
Earlier in the day, Mladic was taken to the grave of his daughter, who killed herself in 1994. Mladic was arrested Thursday after 16 years on the run. The European Union had made his arrest a precondition for Serbia joining the bloc.