Natalee Holloway disappearance suspect to challenge extradition from Peru to US, lawyer says

Lima Peru –

The lawyer for the main suspect in the 2005 unsolved disappearance of US student Natalee Holloway said Monday his client has changed his mind and plans to challenge his extradition to the United States.

Defense lawyer Máximo Altez announced the decision of Dutchman Joran van der Sloot just hours after the Peruvian government confirmed his extradition on Thursday. Altez said van der Sloot changed course after a meeting with Dutch diplomats.

“He does not want to be extradited to the United States of America,” Altez said, adding that he intended to file a writ of habeas corpus. “He was visited today by his embassy (representatives) who made him see the mistake he was making by being extradited without due process.”

The lawyer said van der Sloot was never notified of an open extradition proceeding and was unable to challenge it as a result. Less than a week ago, Altez had said that his client explained in a letter that he did not plan to challenge the extradition.

The embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Peruvian Foreign Ministry said that “it has not received any complaint from the Netherlands about the case.”

Early Monday, the head of Peru’s prison system, Javier Llaque, told The Associated Press that custody of van der Sloot will be handed over to Interpol “first thing in the morning” on Thursday, after which the Dutchman will be transferred to an airport in the capital, Lima, to board a plane bound for the US.

Van der Sloot arrived at a prison in Lima on Saturday after a long journey overland under tight security from a prison in the Andes, where he was serving a 28-year sentence for the murder of a Peruvian woman.

The Peruvian government announced on May 10 that it would temporarily transfer custody of van der Sloot to US authorities to face trial on charges of extortion and wire fraud.

Holloway, who lived in suburban Birmingham, Alabama, was 18 when she was last seen on a trip with classmates to the Caribbean island of Aruba. She was last seen leaving a bar with van der Sloot, who was a student at an international school on the island.

Van der Sloot was identified as a suspect and arrested weeks later, along with two Surinamese brothers. Holloway’s body was never found and no charges were filed in the case. A judge later pronounced Holloway dead.

The federal charges filed in Alabama against van der Sloot stem from an allegation that he attempted to extort money from the Holloway family in 2010, promising to lead them to his body in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars. A grand jury indicted him that year on one count of wire fraud and extortion.

Also in 2010, van der Sloot was arrested in Peru for the murder of 21-year-old Stephany Flores, a business student from a prominent family who was murdered five years after Holloway’s disappearance. Van der Sloot pleaded guilty in the Flores case in 2012.

A 2001 treaty between Peru and the US allows a suspect to be temporarily extradited for trial in the other country. The time that van der Sloot ends up spending in the US “will extend until the conclusion of the criminal proceedings,” including the appeals process, if any, according to a resolution published in the federal register of the South American country. The resolution also states that US authorities agreed to return the suspect to Peruvian custody at a later date.

The girl’s mother, Beth Holloway, in a statement issued after Peruvian authorities agreed to the extradition last month, said the family “is finally getting justice for Natalee.”

“It has been a very long and painful journey, but the persistence of many will pay off,” said Beth Holloway.

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