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Entries in Letters (3)

Thursday
Jul052012

Joran Van Der Sloot Blames Lawyer for Long Prison Sentence

Sebastian Silva/AFP/Getty Images(LIMA, Peru) -- In two letters, Joran van der Sloot blamed his lawyers for his nearly three-decade prison sentence, while he reiterated he had nothing to do with the 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway and begged for forgiveness for the murder of Stephany Flores.

Van der Sloot, 24, is serving 28 years in a Peruvian jail for the murder and robbery of Flores, a 21-year-old business student whose body was found in a Lima hotel room in May 2010 -- five years after the disappearance of Holloway.

"I ask God every day that Stephany's parents can find it in their heart to forgive me," he reportedly wrote in the letters released by his attorney.

Van der Sloot, a Dutch citizen who spent the majority of his adolescence in Caribbean island of Aruba, is the main suspect in the 2005 disappearance of Holloway, an 18-year-old from Mountain Brook, Ala., who was last seen leaving an Oranjestad nightclub with van der Sloot, then 17, while she was on a class graduation trip to the island.

He was arrested but has never been charged with a crime relating to her disappearance.

The letters, in which he refers to himself as a "psychological mess," were said to have been written in June and released this week by van der Sloot's attorney, Max Altez.  In the letter, he asserts that he has "nothing to do with" Holloway's disappearance, while blaming poor legal representation for his long prison sentence.  He says that a previous lawyer told him if he pled guilty he would only be jailed for 15 years.

"My rights have been constantly abused," van der Sloot reportedly wrote.  "After bad legal advice in which my lawyer promised me I would receive 15 years if I plead guilty, I did....I have a history of psychological problems which were never taken into consideration."

The Peruvian Supreme Court last month ruled that van der Sloot can be extradited to the U.S. to face charges that he extorted $25,000 from Holloway's mother, allegedly telling her that he could give her information that would lead to her daughter's body.

On Sept. 6, 2010, Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported that van der Sloot admitted to the extortion, saying, "I wanted to get back at Natalee's family.  Her parents have been making my life tough for five years."

Van der Sloot confessed to the murder of Flores in January.  He said that Flores had been using his laptop without his permission and discovered information linking him to Holloway's disappearance.  He is now appealing the 28-year sentence.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May032012

Osama Bin Laden Letters: Al Qaeda Leader Frustrated at Impotence

AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- An analysis of newly declassified letters found in Osama bin Laden's Pakistan compound shows that the late terror leader was frustrated at his own inability to control the violent jihadi movement he helped create, especially when it came to regional affiliates of al Qaeda.

Bin Laden was angry at his "seemingly inability to exercise control" over regional actors whose attacks often claimed Muslim lives, which bin Laden believed hurt the reputation of al Qaeda in the Muslim world, according to an analysis conducted by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. The Center recently posted the original Arabic-language notes on its website.

"Rather than a source of strength, bin Laden was burdened by what he viewed as the incompetence of the 'affiliates,' including their lack of political acumen to win public support, their media campaigns and their poorly planned operations which resulted in the unnecessary deaths of thousands of Muslims," the CTC's analysis says. "He was at pains advising them to abort domestic attacks and… instead focus on the United States, 'our desired goal.'"

American officials have repeatedly said that the core of al Qaeda, formerly led by bin Laden and now headed by his old deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, has been considerably weakened in recent years, highlighted by the death of bin Laden himself at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs last May. But National Intelligence Director James Clapper said as recently as this January that the terror organization's affiliates, most prominently in Yemen and Somalia, have emerged as some of the greatest threats to the American homeland.

According to the CTC, before bin Laden's death, the senior leadership in al Qaeda was split on how to deal with affiliates. Some wanted to distance themselves completely from any group that acted in al Qaeda's name without first consulting them. Another side believed it was important to include the affiliates into al Qaeda's cause regardless of some of their more questionable operational choices. Bin Laden himself, the CTC says, made up a third party: the one who simply wanted to keep the communication lines open so he could urge restraint, "without granting formal unity with al Qaeda."

Zawahiri appears to have ignored bin Laden's concerns once he took the reins of al Qaeda, as he was the one to formally announce an alliance between core al Qaeda and the domestically-violent Somalia-based terrorist organization al-Shabaab.

The documents also show direct communications between bin Laden and several top terror suspects, including American-born Adam Gadahn and the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, the CTC said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun092011

Princess Diana's Letters May Fetch As Much as $30,000

Tim Graham/Getty Images(LONDON) -- A 30-year collection of previously unpublished letters penned by the late Princess Diana has been unveiled for the first time and is slated to be sold to the highest bidder.

"Just a cosy nest for Mr. and Mrs. Wales to roost," the Princess of Wales wrote of Highgrove, the new home she shared with Prince Charles shortly after their lavish royal wedding.

The letters, dating as far back as September 1981, will be sold on June 21 at a Royal Memorabilia auction in England.

The correspondence, including letters, signed Christmas cards and Royal Wedding invitations, were all sent from Diana to nursery teacher Margaret Hodge, who worked alongside the former Lady Diana Spencer at a small kindergarten in London, when the future royal was known as just "Miss Diana."  She remained friends with Diana until her death in a 1997 Paris car crash.

Diana wrote to Hodge about everything from her early courtship with Prince Charles to the births of her two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry.

"It's heavenly up here, just having the opportunity to do what you like and walk for miles," the princess wrote of her September 1981 honeymoon with Prince Charles at Balmoral.

Written in girlish handwriting and sometimes hard to decipher, the letters and Christmas cards reveal a very personal side of a very public figure, and document the building, and break-up, of a family.

"When she started out she was obviously deeply in love with Prince Charles," James Grinter, an auctioneer who has viewed the collection, told ABC's Good Morning America.  "It seems like from the early letters she doesn't really know what she's letting herself in for."

Later letters share the pain of her very public divorce from Prince Charles in 1992, an experience the two women could share.

"Unfortunately they both went through quite messy divorces," Grinter said.  "So from that point of view they kept in touch, they had something in common that bound them together."

Despite the tumultuousness of her marriage and life, all played out under the glare of the royal spotlight, the letters show little sign of her unhappiness and often have an upbeat tone.

"I know she was very much in love with Prince Charles and she just wanted to be loved in return," Hodge told British newspaper the Daily Mail.

Hodge, 69, says she is selling the letters, valued at more than $30,000, reluctantly because she wants to have a level of [financial] comfort in her old age.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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