U.S., Pakistan Dispute Jailed Diplomat's Immunity

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U.S. relations with Pakistan are imperiled by the Pakistani government's failure to grant official diplomatic immunity to an American accused of murder. Former Special Forces soldier Raymond Davis shot dead two armed men in what the U.S. says was self-defense.


It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

Let's follow up on the story of an American accused of murder in Pakistan. The United States says that Raymond Davis was working as an American diplomat and acting in self-defense when he shot and killed two armed men trying to rob him. But Pakistan has not freed Mr. Davis, who is an ex-Special Forces soldier. President Obama addressed the case in a news conference yesterday, saying Davis should be freed based on the Vienna Convention that defines diplomatic immunity.

President BARACK OBAMA: If our diplomats are in another country, then they are not subject to that country's local prosecution. We respect it with respect to diplomats who are here. We expect Pakistan, that's a signatory, and�recognize Mr.�Davis as a diplomat, to abide by the same convention.

INSKEEP: That's the president's case. People are making a different case in Pakistan, as NPR's Julie McCarthy reports.

JULIE MCCARTHY: Senior police in Lahore tell NPR that they've officially asked five times for cooperation from the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, where Raymond Davis works. The U.S. Embassy insists the United States is cooperating. When pressed on how, there is silence.

The Davis case is highly sensitive and, in three weeks, has become the diplomatic equivalent of a runaway train. Police earlier spoke of a double murder, but now describe the events on a Lahore street in which two people were shot in more chilling terms. Here's Lahore Police Chief Aslam Tareen.

Chief ASLAM TAREEN (Lahore Police): (Through translator) In this case, we have proved that this is a cold-blooded murder. And the forensic science substantiates our claim that Raymond Davis committed this murder. The investigation has been carried out fairly and purely on the merits.

MCCARTHY: According to a five-page police report obtained by NPR, eye-witnesses to the fatal shootings say Davis fired on one of the men as the man was trying to run for his life. The U.S. consul general said she regrets that the police did not consider eye witnesses who say Davis acted in self defense as the men tried to rob him.

The report also says that police took from Davis's car a semi-automatic pistol, 75 bullets, a GPS system, two mobile phones, rupees, dollars, an ATM card and a Pakistan International Airline ticket.

Also mentioned is a land cruiser that reportedly raced to Davis's rescue. It hit a Pakistani man, killing him. Police say items fell from that speeding vehicle including 100 bullets, a pair of gloves, a knife, a black mask and piece of cloth bearing an American flag. The State Department disclosed for the first time Monday that U.S. Embassy staff was in that vehicle. The police want to question the staff.

The Pakistan government has said little, but the ensuing media frenzy casts Davis as a gun-for-hire operative in another episode of U.S. imperialism. Television channels hype exclusive videos of Davis.

(Soundbite TV broadcast)

Mr. RAYMOND DAVIS (U.S. Consultant in Pakistan): No, it's a consulate general. It's not an ambassador.

MCCARTHY: Here's one in which Davis describes himself to police not as a diplomat, but as a consultant.

Unidentified Man: Consul general?

Mr. DAVIS: Yes.

Unidentified Man: Lahore?

Mr. DAVIS: Yes.

Unidentified Man: As a...

Mr. DAVIS: I just work as a consultant there.

MCCARTHY: Political scientist Rasul Bakhsh�Rais says the Pakistani government has been hesitant to commit to freeing Davis for fear of a backlash. Virulently anti-American clerics have already stirred angry protests. But Rais says the government's lack of clarity will hurt Pakistan's interests and prestige.

Dr. RASUL BAKHSH�RAIS (Political Scientist): I think that the Americans mean business, and the relationship between the two countries is likely to be affected very badly.

MCCARTHY: In an apparent effort to defuse tensions, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry arrived in Lahore last night, where he vowed the U.S. Justice Department would launch its own investigation, and said the United States was deeply sorry for the deaths.

Senator JOHN KERRY (Democrat, Massachusetts; Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee): I'm here to listen to people. How can we sort of work our way through this? How do we listen to each other? How do we keep the voices lower? Don't let the passions run away, and do justice to everybody. I think that can be done.

MCCARTHY: Tomorrow, the United States presents its case to the Lahore High Court that Davis is a diplomat deserving immunity. What Pakistan will say is less clear.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Islamabad.

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