Kater set free despite U.S. extradition request for kidnapping

June 26, 2009

A Costa Rica court ordered the release from prison of U.S. citizen Nicole Kater and struck down an extradition request from her home country, where she is accused of international kidnapping.

Judges at the criminal court ruled in favor of Kater, who claims she fled here with her daughter from the United States as a victim of abuse by her ex-partner John Gehl, the child´s father.

Seven-year-old Tierra Zion Gehl Kater was reunited with her father last year.

The ruling follows pressure from women´s groups, politicians and the chief prosecutor to prevent Kater´s extradition to the U.S.

Police arrested Kater, 28, in April 2008, after an investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Interpol and Costa Rican police. Kater fled here with her daughter three years ago during a custody dispute with the child´s father in Humboldt, California.

In August 2005, the Humboldt County Superior Court ordered Kater not to leave the county until a scheduled hearing on the case could occur.

Twelve days before the hearing, however, Kater flew to Costa Rica with her daughter. The United States issued an arrest warrant in December 2005, and the California court awarded Gehl custody. A judge from the San José court for childhood and adolescence awarded Gehl custody this September.

Kater has been held in San José´s Buen Pastor Prison since her arrest in 2008.

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