PERU: Temporary insanity plea planned
Joran van der Sloot plans to plead guilty to killing a young Peruvian woman he met gambling but will argue temporary insanity in a bid to significantly shorten his sentence, his defense lawyer said Monday in Lima. Van der Sloot, 23, the key suspect in the 2005 disappearance of U.S. teenager Natalee Holloway on Aruba, will use a "violent emotion" defense in the slaying of Stephany Flores, attorney Maximo Altez told The Associated Press. Altez said he filed papers three weeks ago, informing prosecutors of his intention to argue that Van der Sloot became enraged and killed Flores, 21, last May 30 because she had learned of his relationship with Holloway by looking in his laptop. He is accused of first-degree murder, which carries a 15- to 35-year sentence on conviction. The "violent emotion" plea is typically used in Peru for crimes of passion in which a spouse, for example, is surprised in the act of adultery. If it is accepted by a trial judge, Altez said, his client would get 3 to 5 years, and could be free in 20 months. The lawyer for the victim's family called the proposed plea absurd, saying Van der Sloot deserved to spend a minimum of 25 years in prison.
MEXICO: Prison transport ambushed
Gunmen swarmed a convoy transporting two prisoners in northern Mexico, shredding three police vehicles with bullets and killing seven officers and one inmate, prosecutors said Monday. Six officers and the second inmate were wounded. Attackers traveling in about 20 vehicles caught the police convoy in a crossfire Sunday near the city of Guasave, Sinaloa state Attorney General Marco Antonio Higuera said. "The patrol vehicles were destroyed. It was practically a massacre," he said. "Initial reports indicate there were 1,200 shell casings at the scene." The three state police patrol vehicles were traveling to the state capital of Culiacán when they came under fire from attackers who apparently lay in wait on a highway. Higuera said the officers fought off a first attack but were caught in concentrated fire from a larger number of vehicles. Federal police, meanwhile, said a newly captured leader of the Zetas drug cartel revealed it has a nonaggression pact with three other gangs - the Juárez, Beltrán Leyva and Arellano Felix. While the gangs are not known to have fought major turf wars with each other, it was the first mention of a formal truce. The alleged Zetas leader, Marcos Carmona Hernandez, 29, was arrested Monday in the southern state of Oaxaca.
CHINA: Harassing reporters denied
One week after foreign journalists were physically harassed by security officers, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi denied the police took part in beating any reporters and said China follows "the rule of law." "At the same time we hope that the foreign journalists will abide by the Chinese laws and regulations," Yang said Monday at a news conference on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the country's largely rubber-stamp parliament. The denial, contradicted by eyewitness and video accounts, came as new restrictions were placed on foreign journalists, essentially repealing the loosened reporting policy instituted at the time of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.