By Ivana Sekularac
THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect and former general Ratko Mladic is in a prison hospital at The Hague, his court-appointed lawyer said on Thursday, and his health has deteriorated because of long years of neglect.
"Ratko Mladic is in the prison hospital...He has not had proper health care for years and his condition is not good," Belgrade lawyer Aleksandar Aleksic told Reuters in The Hague, where Mladic is to go on trial on war crimes charges.
Mladic, 69, was arrested in a Serb village last week nearly 16 years after his indictment. Most of that time he managed to live discreetly but safely in Belgrade, relying on loyal supporters who consider him a hero of the Bosnian war.
He lost the use of one hand due to a stroke suffered years ago but is mentally capable and responsive.
Mladic, who was extradited to The Hague court this week, is due to face the tribunal on Friday morning to answer genocide charges for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim males and for the 43-month siege of Sarajevo.
"He will be transferred to the detention unit tomorrow. He is in a prison hospital, which has two rooms dedicated to U.N. detainees," Aleksic said.
He has a room to himself with a small outdoor yard where he can walk and has been making phone calls to his family, he said.
"I am going to ask tomorrow that he be given additional medical tests," Aleksic added. "I still have not received his medical records from Belgrade."
Mladic would be given an opportunity at his initial hearing on Friday to talk in public about his health and about conditions in detention, the lawyer said.
Serbian media reports say Mladic is unlikely to enter a plea on Friday. Under the rules of the war crimes tribunal, he can defer that step for 30 days, a court spokeswoman confirmed.
(Writing by Douglas Hamilton, Editing by Michael Roddy)