Court refuses to extradite U.S. mom in parental abduction case

September 19, 2008

A Costa Rica court ruled Friday in favor of Nicole Kater, who faces charges in the United States of international parental abduction, the second time in two months this Central American country has struck down a U.S. request for extradition on the basis of kidnapping.

Police arrested 28-year-old Kater near Sabalito de Tierra Morena, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, in April, almost three years after she had fled with her daughter to Costa Rica in 2005 during a custody dispute with the child´s father in Humboldt, California, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.

Humboldt County Superior Court awarded custody to the girl´s father John Gehl, and in December 2005 the United States issued a federal warrant for her arrest.

The Costa Rican National Institute for Women (INAMU), however, claims that Kater had Gehl´s authorization to travel here, and settled in Cóbado, Puntarenas, to start a new life.

Held in San José´s Buen Pastor prison since her arrest in April, Kater filed for refugee status here in July, claiming to be a victim of domestic violence. That came shortly after the arrest of another U.S. woman in a similar case, Chere Lyn Tomayko, who also sought protection in Costa Rica from what she described was a violent situation with her child´s father back in the United States.

Immigration authorities are still processing Kater´s request, news agency EFE reported.

Kater must wait for a high court of appeals ruling till she can go free, INAMU said.

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