Peru promises a fair trial for Dutch murder suspect

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The Dutchman suspected in the murder of a Peruvian woman and the disappearance of a US teenager in Aruba five years ago is guaranteed a fair trial in Peru, the country's interior minister said Saturday.

The suspect, Joran Van Der Sloot, 22, appeared handcuffed and wearing a bullet-proof vest at the criminal police headquarters in downtown Lima.

Van der Sloot was detained in Chile on Thursday, and police handed him over to the Peruvians at the border town of Tacna on Friday.

Interior Minister Octavio Salazar thanked the Chileans for promptly arresting the suspect.

"We would like to thank the Chilean government for handing him over to Peruvian justice, where he has all the guarantees" of a fair trial, Salazar said.

"We have to give police time to complete their investigation, let's remain calm," Salazar told reporters anxious for any bit of information on the case.

The Dutchman is the prime suspect in the May 30 murder of Stephany Flores Ramirez, the 21-year-old daughter of a Peruvian former race car driver.

Her body was found Tuesday, two days after she was killed, in a hotel room in an upmarket area of Peru's capital.

Initially said to have been stabbed, a forensic report later showed she had suffered severe blows to the head and a broken neck.

Peruvian police say Van der Sloot was seen entering the hotel with the victim, according to witnesses. Video footage showed the two had spent time together at a casino beforehand.

Van der Sloot left Lima the day after the murder for Chile in a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile), 620-dollar taxi ride to the border, investigators said.

The maximum sentence for murder in Peru is 25 years prison.

Van der Sloot was at the center of another criminal inquiry in 2005, when he was named as a key suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, an 18-year-old US student visiting the Dutch-run Caribbean island of Aruba.

In that case, Van der Sloot was twice arrested, but charges were never brought against him because of lack of evidence. Holloway's body was never found.

Van der Sloot was later videotaped saying Holloway died after suffering a seizure and that an acquaintance helped him dump the body into the sea.

Van der Sloot however later denied that, and said he had made the comments under the influence of marijuana.

Fernando Ovalle, the Chilean police official in charge of the suspect's detention and deportation, said Van der Sloot gave a statement Friday in fluent Spanish "denying all participation in the charges leveled against him" in the Peru murder.

"He only acknowledged that he knew her (Flores)" and stated that "at some point they had gone to a casino," Ovalle said.

The slain woman's father, Peruvian businessman Ricardo Flores Chipoco, earlier told reporters his daughter was killed at dawn last Sunday after meeting Van der Sloot in a casino.

Media reports highlighted two similarities in the cases in Peru and in Aruba: in both cases, the women were seen with Van der Sloot in a casino, and both met their fates on the date of May 30.

© 2010 AFP

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