Costa Rica suspends extradition of U.S. woman

December 24, 2008

Costa Rica´s Constitutional Court suspended the extradition to the United States of a U.S. woman accused of kidnapping her child and bringing her here, the judiciary said Wednesday.

The extradition of Nicole Kater, 28, was halted in response to a habeas corpus motion filed by Costa Rica´s Chief Prosecutor Francisco Dall´Anese, who said the woman´s due process rights had been violated by the court that ordered her turned over to U.S. authorities.

When Kater and her daughter arrived in Costa Rica in April 2005, the California woman produced what she said was a document signed by the girl´s father, John Gehl, authorizing her to bring the child here.

Kater was under an order from Humboldt County Superior Court in northern California not to leave the country pending a decision on Gehl´s petition for custody of 7-year-old Tierra Zion Gehl-Kater.

A U.S. federal warrant for Kater´s arrest was issued in December 2005 and Costa Rican police tracked her down in April of this year.

Kater has been jailed since then pending possible extradition, while Gehl-Kater was reunited with her father.

Gehl and Kater met in California in 2000 and soon afterward left for Costa Rica, where Tierra Zion Gehl-Kater was born in November of that year.

A Costa Rican court initially rejected the U.S. extradition request, but a higher court overturned that ruling on Dec. 17 and ordered Kater handed over to the United States.

Kater´s bid for refugee status was rejected by Costa Rican authorities in September.

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