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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Suspect in teenager’s Aruba disappearance to be extradited to US

Joran van der Sloot before his sentencing in a Lima, Peru, courtroom in 2012.

By Mike Ives

A man connected to the 2005 disappearance in Aruba of Natalee Holloway, an American teenager, will be temporarily extradited to the United States from Peru to face charges that he extorted her mother, Peruvian authorities said Wednesday.

Holloway disappeared during a trip to the Dutch island with her Alabama high school class at age 18. She was declared dead in 2012 and the unsolved case has long generated great public interest in the United States. First there was intense news coverage, then true-crime books and feature-length films.

The suspect, Joran van der Sloot, is a citizen of the Netherlands who grew up in Aruba and has been linked for years to Holloway’s disappearance. According to the FBI, she was last seen leaving an Aruba nightclub in a car with him and two other young men around 1:30 a.m. on May 30, 2005.

Van der Sloot is in Peru serving a 28-year prison sentence for murder in a separate case: the 2010 strangulation death of Stephany Flores, a 21-year-old Peruvian student. He was sentenced in 2012, at age 24, after pleading guilty.

Around the time of his 2010 arrest in the Flores case, van der Sloot was indicted by a federal grand jury in Alabama on charges of trying to extort Holloway’s mother, Beth Holloway, for $250,000 for information about how her daughter died and the location of her body, which has never been found. He accepted an initial payment of $25,000 in an FBI sting operation and provided what he knew was bogus information, authorities said then.

Peru and the United States have a 2001 extradition treaty. The Peruvian government issued a decree Wednesday to allow van der Sloot, before he finishes his prison sentence, to be handed over temporarily to “ensure” that he “finally faces justice” in the United States, officials said.

“We hope that this action will enable a process that will help to bring peace to Mrs. Holloway and to her family, who are grieving in the same way that the Flores family in Peru is grieving for the loss of their daughter, Stephany,” Peru’s ambassador to the United States, Gustavo Meza-Cuadra, said in the statement.

“It has been a very long and painful journey, but the persistence of many is going to pay off. Together, we are finally getting justice for Natalee,” said Beth Holloway in a statement.

An attorney for van der Sloot, Maximo Altez, told The Associated Press that he would fight the decision.

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