By Tom Bassing
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) - The mother of Natalee Holloway, an American teenager who disappeared in Aruba seven years ago, has sued the supermarket tabloid National Enquirer for publishing articles about her daughter that it knew were false in order to increase sales.
Beth Holloway, in a suit filed in federal court in Birmingham, Alabama, said the coverage over seven years caused her "emotional stress so severe that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it."
Holloway, an 18-year-old high school student from Alabama, vanished during a senior class trip to the Caribbean island in May 2005. Authorities have connected her disappearance to Joran van der Sloot, a Dutch citizen raised on the island who was seen leaving a bar with her.
Van der Sloot, 24, was the target of an extensive investigation into Holloway's disappearance and remains the chief suspect in the unsolved case. He is in prison in Peru on another case.
Holloway was declared legally dead in January. Her body has never been found.
Beth Holloway has continued to pursue the case with the hope of seeing her daughter's suspected killer brought to justice.
Her lawsuit against the National Enquirer and parent company American Media Inc. contends that for at least seven years the tabloid weekly published numerous "false and outrageous" accounts related to her daughter's disappearance as part of "a calculated effort to increase sales."
The lawsuit does not specify the damages sought.
An attorney for American Media said on Thursday that the company had not yet seen the complaint.
"These suits generally are without merit," American Media attorney Cameron Stracher told Reuters.
Lin Wood, an attorney for Beth Holloway, said: "Beth Holloway has suffered a tremendous amount of emotional pain when confronted by these stories."
"We're seeking fair compensation for that pain," Wood said. "No parent should have to suffer this on top of losing a child."
Van der Sloot pleaded guilty in January in a Peruvian court to murdering a 21-year-old woman there. He also faces criminal charges of extortion and wire fraud in Alabama for allegedly offering to provide information leading to Natalee Holloway's whereabouts.
Peru's Supreme Court has ruled that Van der Sloot can be extradited to the United States to face the charges filed in Alabama after he completes a 28-year prison term for the murder of Peruvian college student Stephany Flores.
(Editing by Dan Burns, Colleen Jenkins and Jackie Frank)