Lima ready for Joran van der Sloot trial

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The trial of Dutchman Joran van der Sloot in the Peruvian capital Lima is scheduled to begin on Friday. The 24-year-old is on trial for the murder and robbery of Stephany Flores. If found guilty, he faces a 30-year prison sentence.

Right up until the last minute the parents of the murdered woman tried to get the charges changed to “premeditated murder”, so he would be put away for life. The court, however, has rejected their requests.

At 10 a.m. local time, the trial will convene in a court room of the former Lurigancho prison, where Van der Sloot has been held on remand since his arrest in June. This jail, which used to hold gangsters, terrorists and political prisoners, has now been renamed the San Pedro prison.

The trial is being seen as one of the many cases against serious criminals. As a result, the gutter press has gone to town on the “monster of Holland” story, while the serious media have given the case little or no coverage.

Premeditated murder
Van der Sloot has admitted to picking the 21-year-old Stephany Flores up in a casino in Lima and killing her in May 2010. He could be jailed for 28 years for the killing. For taking the young woman’s credit cards and money, the court may add another two years.

Under the Peruvian legal system Van der Sloot could be released from prison after sitting out one third of his sentence, so the parents of the victim tried to force the Public Prosecution Office to charge him with premeditated murder.

Unlawful deportation?
A possible complication in the trial is the role Chile played in the case. Immediately after the killing, Van der Sloot fled in a car to Peru’s southern neighbour, where he was soon arrested and deported back to Peru. His lawyer Aldo Cotrino – who operates from New York – says the deportation was unlawful and “contravened human rights”.

A few weeks ago, he filed a complaint against the Chilean authorities at the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights in Washington, demanding 13 million US dollars in compensation.

Nathalee Holoway
Van der Sloot is still the main suspect in the disappearance of US teenager Natalee Holoway. The student from Alabama disappeared during a holiday to Aruba in 2005. She was last seen with Joran van der Sloot. However, the Aruban police failed to gather enough evidence against him to press charges and her body was never found.

In June 2010, Van der Sloot was charged in the US with extortion of the Holloway family. In exchange for a quarter of a million dollars, he promised to say where Natalee’s body was. He used a 25,000-dollar advance to pay for a flight to Lima, where his fatal meeting with Stephany Flores took place.