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Suspect in Natalee Holloway disappearance pleads not guilty in US court

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(Reuters) – A convicted killer suspected in the 2005 disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba pleaded not guilty on Friday in a U.S. courtroom to charges of extortion and wire fraud related to her death, according to media reports.

Joran van der Sloot, 35, was extradited to Birmingham, Alabama, from a prison in Peru on Thursday for arraignment in federal court in northern Alabama. The Dutch national is serving a 28-year prison sentence in the South American country for another woman’s killing.

Holloway, an 18-year-old from a Birmingham suburb, mysteriously vanished in 2005 during a high school graduation trip to Aruba. While her remains have not been discovered, an Alabama judge declared her legally dead in 2012.

The teenager was last seen in Aruba with van der Sloot and another man. Her disappearance and an exhaustive investigation drew heavy media attention.

Van der Sloot, who was once arrested in the U.S. in the case but not charged, is accused of extorting the girl’s mother, Beth Holloway, for money and offering false information about the teen’s whereabouts in 2010, according to prosecutors.

Beth Holloway watched as van der Sloot was arraigned in the courtroom, according to local media.

During the brief court appearance, van der Sloot wore a T-shirt. He had an earpiece for translation of the hearing into Dutch but chose not to use it, CBS News affiliate WIAT-TV reported.

Van der Sloot will be returned to Peru upon the trial’s conclusion in Alabama.

He was convicted in 2012 to 28 years in prison in Peru after he confessed to beating, strangling and suffocating a 21-year-old Peruvian business student in 2010.

(Reporting by Tyler Clifford in New York City; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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