Argentine court says US fugitive can be extradited

AP News
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Posted: Jan 03, 2015 2:59 PM
Argentine court says US fugitive can be extradited

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina's Supreme Court has ruled that an American who took refuge and started a new life in the South American country can be extradited to face charges that he killed his wife over a decade ago, a court spokeswoman confirmed Saturday.

Kurt Sonnenfeld moved to Argentina in 2003 and sought asylum after prosecutors in Denver charged him with first-degree murder. The decision to extradite him brings to an end a longstanding dispute between the U.S. Justice Department and Argentine courts that centered in part on differences over the death penalty.

In the ruling, which was made Dec. 11, the justices said U.S. prosecutors had assured Argentina that "the death penalty will not be imposed, or if it were ruled, it will not be exercised in this case." The ruling said the executive branch will have final say on an extradition and doesn't specify when it may take place.

Maria Bourdin, a spokeswoman for Argentina's Supreme Court, confirmed the ruling but declined to comment beyond what was in it. Calls to the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires on Saturday seeking comment were not immediately returned.

Denver district attorney spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough referred questions to the U.S. Department of Justice, which said it does not comment on matters of extradition until a defendant is in the United States.

Sonnenfeld had been a cameraman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency at the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and claimed he had video footage indicating the government knew the attacks would happen. He claimed that his wife, who was found dead in their home on Jan. 1, 2002, had killed herself and that prosecutors framed him for her death to silence him, allegations that Denver's district attorney's office has denied.

Sonnenfeld, who published a book in Spanish about his case, "El Perseguido," or "The Persecuted," had a following of fellow conspiracy theorists. On a Facebook page dedicated to him, a long post in Spanish published late Friday lamented Argentina's decision and recounted Sonnenfeld's claim that he was framed.

According to the page, Sonnenfeld remarried in Argentina and has twin daughters. Several private messages sent to the page Saturday were not immediately returned.

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Reporters Sadie Gurman in Denver and Peter Prengaman in Atlanta contributed to this report.