US child rapist consents to extradition

One of the United States' most wanted fugitives, accused of raping his daughter and posting the video on the Internet, agreed on Monday to be extradited from Hong Kong.

US child rapist consents to extradition
One of the United States' most wanted fugitives, accused of raping his daughter and posting the video on the Internet, agreed on Monday to be extradited from Hong Kong.

Kenneth Freeman, 45, held in Hong Kong after a worldwide manhunt, had earlier contested an extradition request. He faces a maximum penalty of life in jail in the United States if convicted on charges including child rape and production of child pornography.

Freeman told a Hong Kong court he "voluntarily" accepted extradition. "I believe it's in my best interests," he said.

Freeman, a thick-set bodybuilder and former sheriff's deputy in Washington state, wore handcuffs in court as he signed documents giving consent for his surrender to US authorities.

Hong Kong's Chief Executive must now sign the extradition order in a process that normally takes four to six weeks, Wayne Walsh, a government counsel for the prosecution, told reporters.

Freeman's lawyer, Giles Surman, said Freeman's consent to the extradition had "absolutely no bearing whatsoever on his innocence, he maintains his innocence".

Surman explained that Freeman agreed to the extradition because: "We did not want a lot of the material that is or may be presented against him in court in the US rehearsed here, where we don't have the benefit of questioning live witnesses."

Described by the US Marshals Service as "one of the world's most notorious accused child molesters", Freeman fled his Seattle home in early 2006 soon after charges were brought against him.

The trail went cold until he was discovered living and working in the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou near Shanghai.

The lack of an extradition treaty between the United States and China meant law enforcement authorities held back, waiting for Freeman to leave China before attempting his capture.

Freeman eventually crossed China's land border into Hong Kong in May, where he was arrested after a violent struggle with police. The former British colony has a separate judicial system, which allows extraditions to the United States.

The Internet video of Freeman allegedly raping his young daughter was one of the most widely downloaded child pornography videos in years, US law enforcement officials have said.

Reuters
Last Mod: 10 Eylül 2007, 12:54
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