ORANJESTAD, Aruba — A latent but growing resentment here became evident for the first time when more than 200 people, some wrapped in Aruban flags, said they were incensed by statements made by the mother of missing American teen Natalee Holloway.
Those assembled outside the colonial courthouse in this Caribbean capital Tuesday night said they fear their tiny island nation is falsely being portrayed as not doing enough to find Holloway, who vanished May 30 on a graduation trip with her high school class.
Two brothers, Deepak Kalpoe, 21, and Satish Kalpoe, 18, who had been held as suspects were released Monday for lack of evidence.
In a brief and tearful statement Tuesday, Beth Holloway Twitty, Natalee’s mother, accused Aruba of letting guilty people free.
“Two suspects were released yesterday who were involved in a violent crime against my daughter,” she said.
On Monday the courts extended for 60 days the detention of Joran van der Sloot, 17, the son of a judge-in-training, the only person still under arrest and possibly the last person to see Natalee Holloway alive.
Prosecutors appeal release decision
Aruban prosecutors appealed the judge’s decision to release the Kalpoe brothers, the prosecutor’s office said Wednesday. The prosecutor’s office also said lawyers for van der Sloot have appealed the order holding him for an additional 60 days.
The prosecutor’s office said Wednesday that no date has been set for a hearing appealing the decision to release the Kalpoe brother. The office declined to comment further.
Twitty said of the Kalpoes on Tuesday: “These criminals are not only being allowed to walk around among the tourists and citizens of Aruba,” there were no limits on where they could go.
‘It’s time we got some respect’
The protesters took umbrage at her statements. “Respect our Dutch laws or go home,” read one sign. “Innocent until proven guilty,” read another. One suggested the missing girl might not be dead but partying in Brazil or nearby Venezuela.
There were complaints that some American television coverage unfairly depicted the island, which depends overwhelmingly on tourism, and as being crime- and drug-ridden.
On Wednesday, David Kock and Elgin Zeppenfeldt, attorneys for Satish Kalpoe, issued a statement denouncing Holloway Twitty's statements as “prejudicial, inflammatory, libelous and totally outrageous.”
“A criminal is a person that has been tried and found guilty in a court of law, while a suspect is a person that is under investigation by the corresponding authorities. Mr. Kalpoe is the latter,” the statement said. “The statement made by Mrs. Twitty, calling Mr. Kalpoe a criminal, is uncalled for, especially since my client is maintaining his innocence."
Defendant may take ‘legal steps’
The attorneys said that if the statements from Holloway Twitty did not stop, Satish Kalpoe “will consider taking legal steps to ensure that the aforementioned will not be repeated.”
“Mr. Kalpoe has confidence in the Aruban judicial system and he is confident that in the end, he will be found innocent," they said.
Though poverty is widespread in the Caribbean, Aruba has an unemployment rate of less than 1 percent and one of the higher standards of living. And it has few worries. Tourism and a major refinery bring in the money.
“Have you been treated badly in Aruba?” asked Ramon Garcia, a burly tourist guide. “We are together with the family of Natalee, but we love Aruba too, man. We don’t need these pressures. We are a friendly island.”
Orlando Flanigan said his country had given “all out hearts, all out cooperation, everything,” to help find Natalee. “It’s time we got some respect back,” he said.
“They are making us look like a banana republic, he said. “We are an educated and cultured people; many of us speak four or five languages.”
'Trust our legal system'
Another Aruban told the crowd that Aruba is not an island of criminals. “We have 96 (prison) cells and 53 percent of them are occupied by non-Arubans,” John Maywether said.
“We are here to ask that you trust our legal system,” he said, recalling that Arubans turned out in large numbers for Natalee after she vanished and that prayers were offered for her safe return in local churches.
Arubans note that local banks raised $20,000 and provided other help to a group of volunteers from Texas, who are still here, could continue their search for the girl.
But there has been no sign of her. Three F-16 jets sent by the Dutch government were to start flying grid patterns on Wednesday, taking offshore photographs hoping for clues.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.