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Lawyer: Ratko Mladic battling cancer

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- Ratko Mladic's lawyer said yesterday that he has a document proving the war crimes suspect has been battling cancer and that he was treated at a Serbian hospital in 2009, but a Serbian prosecutor called it a hoax.

Milos Saljic said that Mladic has suffered from lymph node cancer and that he underwent surgery and chemotherapy for it in 2009. The lawyer showed the AP what he called a photocopy of a doctors' diagnosis saying Mladic was in a hospital between April 20 and July 18, 2009. The document has blackened-out letterhead and signatures to hide the names of the hospital and the doctors.

The top of the medical certificate clearly bears Mladic's name, date and place of birth, his father's name and Mladic's rank as a general. However, Mladic's name does not appear anywhere else on the certificate, which refers only to "the patient." The mention of Mladic's rank suggests the form could come from a military facility, but Belgrade's military hospital declined to comment yesterday.

Saljic gave a copy of the letter to a judge and prosecutors in Serbia hours before his unsuccessful bid Tuesday to prevent Mladic's extradition to The Hague for prosecution on war crime charges.

One of those officials, Serbian deputy war crimes prosecutor Bruno Vekaric, said yesterday the document "looks like a hoax" and he questioned the diagnosis cited in it.

Serbia's Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac accused Saljic of "manipulating the public." -- AP

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