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American contests U.S. extradition request in child abuse case

An American charged with raping his daughter and releasing video of the abuse online said Friday that he didn’t want to be extradited to the U.S.

Kenneth John Freeman, a fugitive on America's most-wanted lists, showed no emotion as he appeared for his first hearing in a Hong Kong courthouse wearing handcuffs, a blue polo shirt and dark green pants.

Freeman was arrested Tuesday, after a 13-month global manhunt, as he tried to enter Hong Kong on a bus at the busy Lok Ma Chau border crossing with mainland China.

He scuffled with four armed Hong Kong police officers, leaving scratches and bruises on himself and the officers, Detective Senior Inspector Tobi Lothian of the Hong Kong police said.

The muscular Freeman, 44, a bodybuilder and computer expert, said he wanted to contest the U.S. extradition request, his lawyer, Stephen Ma, said.

Ma said Freeman did not apply for bail and that it was unlikely to be granted because of the seriousness of the allegations against him.

The case was adjourned until July 3 to give the U.S. time to make a formal extradition request and provide supporting documents, Hong Kong government lawyer Wayne Walsh said. Freeman was returned to custody.

Under a U.S.-Hong Kong extradition treaty, Washington has 60 days to make the request, Walsh said.

Freeman was allegedly involved in one of the Internet's most notorious molestation videos.

He was living in the northwestern U.S. city of Seattle when he fled America last year, months after his 17-year-old daughter told her mother he had assaulted her four years earlier.

The girl appeared on the American TV show "America's Most Wanted" to talk about the case. Tips to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children after the show aired helped the center identify the girl as the victim in a series of child pornography videos, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

Videos of the abuse are among the most widely downloaded child pornography videos in recent years, officials said. Video files depicting the abuse also were discovered on a computer Freeman had given to his daughter.

Freeman has been charged in Benton County Superior Court in the state of Washington with three counts of rape of a child and jumping bail. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

He also faces federal charges of producing and distributing child pornography.

Freeman flew from Vancouver, Canada, to Hong Kong in March 2006, then went to China, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Chinese authorities helped track Freeman to the eastern city of Suzhou, near Shanghai, where he is believed to have been working for a U.S.-based company. He was apparently employed as a computer adviser, detective Lothian told The Associated Press.

"I believe he was (in China) for approximately one year," Lothian said.

He said American authorities had asked Hong Kong police for help in the case several months ago.

Hong Kong authorities were alerted that Freeman was coming to Hong Kong and put him on a watch list, he said, adding that he didn't know why Freeman came to the city.

"He was using his U.S. passport in his own name," Lothian said. "Obviously, he wasn't trying to evade detection as he came through."

Authorities waited for Freeman to go to Hong Kong from China to make the arrest because China doesn't have an extradition treaty with the United States. Hong Kong is part of China, but is governed separately and has its own legal system.

Freeman traveled to Hong Kong during a holiday week when masses of mainlanders cross the already busy border near the mainland's boomtown of Shenzhen.

He didn't put up a struggle initially when police arrested him and put him in a van, Lothian said. But as the vehicle approached a police station, Freeman scuffled with four officers as he was getting out of the van, he said.

It's unclear whether Freeman will be charged with assaulting officers. Department of Justice spokesman Felix Leung said the government will study a police report on the incident first.

The suspect is also a former reserve Benton County sheriff's deputy and worked as a U.S. Department of Energy security guard at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in eastern Washington, according to authorities.