Published on : 20 June 2010 - 12:08pm | By Pablo Gámez (RNW)
The case against Dutch murder suspect Joran van der Sloot gets underway on Monday, he will hear the charges against him during a formal opening in the Miguel Castro Castro prison in Peru where he is being held.
The charges will be read out against the Dutchman by Judge Carlos Morales.
The arraignment will take place behind closed doors. In legal terms, what follows is the pre-trial investigation. Van der Sloot's detention can be extended up to twelve months.
During the investigation, the authorities will try to clarify the facts and determine any guilt. Police sources earlier reported that van der Sloot had confessed to the murder of 21-yearold Stephany Flores.
Student Flores was seen on CCTV entering van der Sloot's hotel room after the two had been at a poker tournament - the next day she was found dead and in the meantime van der Sloot had fled to Chile. He was handed back over to the Peruvian authorities after giving himself up to police.
Lawyers for van der Sloot have remained silent but question marks are said to have been raised about the confession.
If declared guilty, Van der Sloot faces a minimum of 15 years imprisonment.
In an exclusive interview with Radio Netherlands Worldwide, Edward Álvarez, lawyer of the Flores family, insists that despite concerns that Joran van der Sloot will get a fair trial in Peru:
"Peru is a democracy and therefore it has an unconditional respect for fundamental rights, among which the judiciary, and the institutions of the penal system guarantee that Joran van der Sloot's will get a fair trial. The principle of the assumption of innocence cannot be questioned until there is a solid and definite judgement."
The way in which Joran van der Sloot was put on display for the national and international press after his arrest provoked criticism in The Netherlands, suggesting that Van der Sloot "had already been condemned by the media."
Álvarez recognises that "there has been mass media attention. This happens frequently in the Peruvian legal system but we cannot, in any case, doubt the assumption of Joran van der Sloot's innocence. Neither can it be presented in a situation that affects his human dignity."
The organisation Prison Law, which supports prisoners worldwide, is one of the bodies that has raised concerns. Spokeswoman Rachel Imamkhan says he has little trust in the Peruvian justice system.
"My experience is that there is little chance of a fair trial in that country. Peru is a party to international treaties but in practice you see little of that."
What may help, according to Imamkhan is the international attention for the case
Judge Morales Córdova will have at his disposal the results of psychological and psychiatric tests of Joran van der Sloot, as well as the autopsy report and expert reports in the preliminary investigation.
But Álvarez says there are still gaps:
"There are still many things to finish in the pre-trial investigation. One of the primary things is the reading of the contents of Joran van der Sloot's laptop. We do not know yet what information it contains. We also need to investigate the record of telephone calls that Stephany Flores received. We know that she received calls from Joran during the days before her death. There are people at the casino that were aware of Joran van der Sloot's presence: whether he won money and whether it is true if he entered the place with so much money."
The hard disc of Van der Sloot's computer could also contain information about the murder of US citizen Nathalee Holloway in Aruba in 2005. Van der Sloot remains a suspect in that unresolved case.
Aruba and the US have already asked Peru about the kind of information that the laptop contains.
Lawyer Álvarez insists that Joran van der Sloot "will definitely not be extradited. Peru does not have an agreement with the Netherlands, which makes this scenario impossible. Van der Sloot will have to serve his sentence in Peru."
RNW sources who wish to remain anonymous say that Joran van der Sloot's mother is trying to manage her son's extradition to the Netherlands.