Joran van der Sloot, who has been linked to the 2005 disappearance of American teenage girl, Natalee Holloway, pleaded not guilty to extortion and fraud charges in a Birmingham, Alabama, Alabama court on Friday after being temporarily extradited from Peru to the United States United .
At his appearance in the US Hugo L. Black court, Mr. van der Sloot spoke only to refuse the services of a Dutch translator and to acknowledge that he understood the allegations against him.
He pleaded not guilty through his attorney, Kevin Butler, a federal public defender.
Before arriving in Alabama on Thursday afternoon, van der Sloot, 35, was serving a prison sentence in Peru, where he pleaded guilty to the 2010 murder of a 21-year-old Peruvian student, Stephany Flores.
Last month, Peruvian authorities announced they would allow his extradition temporarily to ensure he « finally faces justice » in the United States.
« Peru has been very instrumental in this process, » said George Seymore, a representative for Beth Holloway, Natalee’s mother. « They shouldn’t have allowed this process to go forward. »
At the time of his arrest in the Flores case, Mr van der Sloot was indicted by a federal grand jury in Alabama on charges of attempting to extort Ms. Holloway $250,000 for information about how her daughter died and where her body was, which has never been found.
He he accepted an initial payment of $25,000 in an FBI sting operation and provided what he knew was false information, authorities said at the time.
Natalee Holloway was 18 when she went missing after a night out in Aruba on May 30, 2005, while traveling with her high school class in Alabama. A judge pronounced her legally dead in 2012, but the unsolved case has garnered public interest for years.
« Now, 18 years later, the wheels of justice have finally started to turn for our family and we are about to face our much anticipated day in court, » Ms Holloway said in a statement. « With the felony charge completed, the prosecution of this criminal case has officially begun. »
Ms Holloway added that Mr van der Sloot’s not guilty plea « didn’t deter us » and that she was confident federal prosecutors would secure a conviction.
The Holloway family’s lawyers expect the case to go to trial, but the timing remains unclear.
« While today’s indictment represents a significant step forward, we must remember that the pursuit of justice is far from over, » John Q. Kelly, attorney for Beth Holloway, said in a statement.
Mr. van der Sloot had been held in the Shelby County Jail in Alabama since Friday.
If he is found guilty in the extortion case, he will first return to Peru to complete the remainder of his 28-year sentence for the murder of Ms. Flores, who was killed by strangulation before returning to the United States for prison.