Joran Van der Sloot, the prime suspect in the 2005 disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway, was seriously injured in a brawl at a Peruvian prison as he awaits extradition to the United States, according to reports.
“It was a fight between prisoners. I don’t know who assaulted Joran,” his attorney Maximo Altez said in a statement to CBS News.
Altez noted that the violence did not appear to be linked to the Holloway case, but rather likely stemmed from gang activity inside the Challapalca Prison, where Van Der Sloot is being held. He has since been transferred to the facility’s medical wing, though his condition was not clear.
“Given Joran Van der Sloot’s public profile, there is legitimate concern regarding his safety inside the prison,” Altez wrote in court filing obtained by Fox News. “It is necessary to ensure that he is not a victim of violence, assaults or any form of abuse by other inmates.”
Holloway was just 18 when she vanished during a graduation trip in 2005 to Aruba, where Van Der Sloot is from. She was last seen alive leaving a bar with him, though he has never been charged in connection with her disappearance.
Aruban authorities officially finally closed the case in 2008, and Holloway was formally declared dead in 2012.
Van der Sloot, a Dutch national, was separately convicted in 2012 of murdering 21-year-old Stephany Flores in his Lima hotel room and sentenced to 28 years in prison. A wealthy business student from a prominent family, Flores was killed five years to the day after Holloway disappeared.
Earlier this month, the Peruvian government agreed to allow van der Sloot’s extradition to the United States, where he will face trial on extortion and wire fraud charges linked to Holloway’s disappearance. He’s accused of attempting to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from Holloway’s loved ones, who continued to search for answers after authorities closed the case.
Prosecutors in the U.S. said van der Sloot accepted cash from her family in exchange for a promise to lead them to her body in early 2010. He asked they provide $25,000 upfront and then another $250,000 once they uncovered Natalee’s remains. During a recorded sting operation, van der Sloot pointed to a house where he said the missing teen was buried but in later emails admitted to lying about the location.
An Alabama grand jury indicted van der Sloot on wire fraud and extortion charges in 2010.