LIMA, Peru — The lawyer for the main suspect in the unsolved 2005 disappearance of American student Natalee Holloway on Monday said his client has changed his mind and plans to challenge his extradition to the United States.
Defense attorney Máximo Altéz announced the decision of Dutchman Joran van der Sloot just hours after the Peruvian government confirmed the extradition would take place Thursday. Altéz said van der Sloot reversed course following a meeting with Dutch diplomats.
“He does not want to be extradited to the United States of America,” Altéz 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 attorney said van der Sloot was never notified of an open extradition process, and as a result, was not able to challenge it. Less than a week ago, Altéz had said his client explained in a letter he did not plan to challenge the extradition.
The embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Peruvian Foreign Ministry said it had “not received any complaint from the Netherlands regarding the case.”
Earlier 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” Thursday, after which the Dutchman will be taken to an airport in the capital, Lima, to board a plane to the U.S.
Van der Sloot arrived Saturday at a corrections facility in Lima after a long ground trip under strict security measures from a prison in the Andes, where he was serving a 28-year sentence for the murder of a Peruvian woman.
The government of Peru announced May 10 that it would temporarily transfer custody of van der Sloot to authorities in the U.S. to face trial on extortion and wire fraud charges.
Holloway, who lived in suburban Birmingham, Alabama, was 18 when she was last seen during 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 detained weeks later, along with two Surinamese brothers. Holloway’s body was never found, and no charges were filed in the case. A judge later declared Holloway dead.
The federal charges filed in Alabama against van der Sloot stem from an accusation that he tried to extort the Holloway family in 2010, promising to lead them to her body in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars. A grand jury indicted him that year on one count each 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 killed five years to the day after Holloway’s disappearance. Van der Sloot pleaded guilty in Flores’ case in 2012.
A 2001 treaty between Peru and the U.S. allows a suspect to be temporarily extradited to face trial in the other country. The time that van der Sloot ends up spending in the U.S. “will be extended until the conclusion of the criminal proceedings,” including the appeal process should there be one, according to a resolution published in the South American country’s federal register. The resolution also states that U.S. authorities agreed to return the suspect to the custody of Peru afterward.
The young woman’s mother, Beth Holloway, in a statement released 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 is going to pay off,” Beth Holloway said.
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