July 02, 2005 09:00 AM

In a case already tainted by charges of a cover-up, Aruba’s Attorney General Karin Janssen announced on Friday that the three young men being held in the disappearance of Alabama teen Natalee Holloway had been charged with murder.

But then, Aruba’s chief government spokesman, Ruben Trapenberg, quickly stepped up and announced that, in fact, the three detainees had not been formally charged – but could be as soon as Monday.

Trapenberg blamed the confusion on “semantics. It’s been a problem since day one. The charging is a formal process that happens later on. It could happen as soon as Monday.”

The men in question are Joran van der Sloot, 17, and two Surinamese brothers, Deepak Kalpoe, 21, and Satish Kalpoe, 18, who were arrested 10 days after Holloway vanished on May 30 during a chaperoned school trip with some of her classmates.

Although no physical evidence has been released that suggests 18-year-old Holloway is dead, authorities say that a body is not required for murder charges to be made.

In several TV news interviews, Holloway’s mother, Beth Holloway Twitty, has roundly criticized investigators, whom she accuses of possibly shielding someone – such as van der Sloot’s 52-year-old father, she has said. Paul van der Sloot, a Dutch judge in training, was briefly taken into custody, then released.

In response to the faultfinding of his island’s lawmen, Trapenberg insisted: “They do not bungle cases. Aruban police and prosecutors are professional forces that have been successful.”

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