NPR logo U.S. Official In Pakistan Faces Charge Of Murder

U.S. Official In Pakistan Faces Charge Of Murder

Pakistani police escorted the U.S. consular official, identified by local authorities as Raymond Davis, into court in the city of Lahore on Friday. Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

Pakistani officials say a U.S. consular employee involved in the shooting deaths of two armed men in Lahore has been formally presented with a charge of murder.

The American suspect, whom local authorities identified as Raymond Davis, appeared before a special judicial magistrate Friday and had a charge of double murder lodged against him, according to Zulfiqar Hameed, senior superintendent of police investigations.

The consular staffer allegedly shot and killed the two men riding a motorcycle, but reportedly said he acted in self defense after one of the men pointed a gun at him. The murder charge presented Friday is based on a complaint filed by the families of the dead men and is at variance with the initial theory that the American had been a victim of an attempted robbery.

"He has killed two men. A case is registered against him on murder charges," said Rana Bakhtiar, deputy prosecutor general for Punjab. Bakhtiar spoke after the American's court appearance, where judges ordered him to remain in police custody for six days.

Although Pakistani officials named Davis as the suspect, some media reports citing the U.S. State Department said the name was incorrect.

A separate case has been filed against unnamed defendants in the death of a third man who was crushed by an SUV that authorities say sped to the scene of the shooting to assist the consulate employee. Police say that vehicle has not been located.

Pakistan's weak government, already frequently criticized for being subservient to the United States, will likely come under domestic pressure to be tough on the American. There were several small protests around the country after midday prayers, calling for the American to be punished.

The U.S. Embassy has not said what position the staffer held at the consulate in Lahore or whether he qualifies for diplomatic immunity.

Under widely accepted international conventions, diplomats are generally free from prosecution, but the level of immunity varies as to what job they do, and it's not automatically granted. A temporary consultant working at a mission, for example, may not be protected at all.

Western diplomats travel with armed guards in many parts of Pakistan because of the risk of militant attack. Lahore has seen frequent terrorist bombings and shootings over the past two years, though the city's small expatriate population has not been directly targeted.

Pakistani demonstrators scuffle with police blocking them from reaching the U.S. embassy during a protest in Lahore. Muhammed Muheisen/AP hide caption

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Muhammed Muheisen/AP

Pakistani demonstrators scuffle with police blocking them from reaching the U.S. embassy during a protest in Lahore.

Muhammed Muheisen/AP

In a two-sentence statement, the U.S. Embassy confirmed that a consulate staffer "was involved in an incident yesterday that regrettably resulted in the loss of life." The U.S. was working with Pakistanis to "determine the facts and work toward a resolution," it said.

Many Pakistanis regard the U.S. with suspicion or enmity because of its occupation of neighboring Afghanistan and regular missile attacks against militant targets in Pakistan's northwest. The government condemns those attacks but is widely believed to agree to them privately, further angering its critics.

In a sign of the political sensitivities of the case, Interior Minister Rehman Malik was asked by a lawmaker in parliament whether he was trying to set the American free. "I will never abet a criminal," Malik replied.

In the capital, Islamabad, and the city of Karachi, several dozen people burned U.S. flags and chanted slogans.

"Hang the U.S. spy, the killer of three Pakistanis," read one placard.

NPR's Julie McCarthy reported from Islamabad for this story, which contains material from The Associated Press.