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Archive for Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Holloway suspect to fight extradition

May 23, 2006

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— The surprise arrest of a new suspect in the disappearance of American teenager Natalee Holloway revived hope Monday of solving the case, with a defense lawyer saying for the first time that Aruban authorities believe she was murdered.

Citing Dutch privacy laws, Gerard Spong identified his client only as "Guido W.," a croupier at the hotel casino where Holloway was staying when she disappeared a year ago during a high school graduation trip to the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba.

In an interview with Dutch NOS television Sunday, Spong said Aruban authorities suspect his client of "assisting in the murder, battery and kidnapping of Natalee Holloway."

Guido W.'s parents said in a statement that their son was "innocent until proven guilty," and they "cannot believe that he could have anything to do with the case." They warned intrusive journalists to back off.

"As parents, we are now confronted with the fact that our son is being held on the suspicion to have something to do with the case of the missing girl," said the parents, who did not attach their names to the statement. "We are appalled of this development. We cannot believe that he could have anything to do with the case."

They said they hoped Holloway is found alive.

The suspect was arrested and jailed Wednesday in Utrecht and has been undergoing interrogation by Dutch police at the direction of Aruban prosecutors. He has not been formally charged.

Spong's office said Monday he would contest a move by Aruban authorities to have his client brought there for arraignment.

Court officials in The Hague said Spong, one of the most famous defense attorneys in the Netherlands, had filed suit against the Dutch state to prevent the transfer.

Court spokeswoman A. Van Rens said that because Aruba is part of the Netherlands, the transfer should be no more difficult to accomplish than moving a suspect between any two Dutch cities. The case will be heard today.

Holloway, of Mountain Brook, Ala., was 18 when she disappeared. She was last seen leaving a bar with three young men on May 30, 2005, the last night of her trip to Aruba.

Spong said his client is a friend of Joran van der Sloot - the last person known to have seen Holloway alive. Van der Sloot says he left Holloway on a beach after they kissed.

While Aruban authorities are keeping all options open, they believe Holloway is most likely dead and buried on the island. Police in Aruba say prevailing currents would have likely washed her body ashore if she drowned or her body was thrown into the sea.

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