''Dr Death'' Jayant Patel in US custody

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Sydney, Mar 12 (UNI) Dr Jayant Patel of Indian origin, who has been nicknamed ''Dr Death'' for alleged manslaughter, negligence and fraud, which resulted in 17 deaths at a Queensland hospital, has been remanded in custody after appearing in a US court.

Dr Patel, who could face life in prison in Australia, appeared before a US federal magistrate who set the doctor's extradition hearing for April 10. The FBI arrested Patel at his home in Portland, Oregon yesterday.

Australian authorities are seeking the extradition of the 57-year-old to face 16 charges, including three of manslaughter, three of grievous bodily harm and two of negligent acts or omissions causing harm.

Dr Patel would reappear in the court on Thursday for a bail hearing, while an extradition hearing was scheduled for April 10.

The Australian government is seeking his extradition over three deaths at the Queensland hospital, where he worked from 2003 until fleeing the country in April, 2005.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said the Government was ''very pleased'' by the way US authorities had handled the Patel case.

The process could drag on in the courts for years as lawyers debate whether Dr Patel could ever receive a fair trial in Queensland.

Head of the Queensland state government, Anna Bligh, said it could take some time before Dr Patel faced trial.

''There are a lot of people who have waited a very long time for this, not only those who have been directly affected, but the friends and family, the staff at Bundaberg hospital,'' the Australain quoted Ms Bligh as saying.

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