US official held for Lahore shootout ‘is diplomat – must be freed’

Pakistan - Hotbed of Islamic Terrorism

Pakistan – Hotbed of Islamic Terrorism

The US official arrested on charges of murdering two Pakistanis is a diplomat and must be immediately released, demanded the embassy in Pakistan.

The official had diplomatic passport and hence had immunity from prosecution, the embassy said.

“The diplomat acted in self-defence when confronted by two armed men on motorcycles”, the statement said.

The police have charged the official – identified as Raymond Davis by Pakistan, with murder on Friday. The official has told a local court in Lahore that he shot the two men in self-defence.

The magistrate has ordered Mr. Davis’ custody for a week as police investigate the case further. Another car rushing to Mr. Davis’ aid had run over a pedestrian – who later died in hospital.

“The United States Embassy in Pakistan calls for the immediate release of a US diplomat unlawfully detained by authorities in Lahore”, the statement issued by the US embassy said.

“The diplomat, assigned to the US Embassy in Islamabad, has a US diplomatic passport and Pakistani visa valid until June 2012.

“When detained, the US diplomat identified himself to police as a diplomat and repeatedly requested immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Local police and senior authorities failed to observe their legal obligation to verify his status”, said the statement.

Regretting that the shoot out “resulted in loss of life”, the statement described him as a consular employee without identifying him.

Lahore Police Chief Aslam Tareen had previously confirmed that Mr. Davis was serving the consulate for ‘security duties’ and was not authorized to carry firearms.

Mr. Davis has claimed that the two persons were trying to rob him at gunpoint and police claims that pistols were also found on the slain men. Mr. Davis had apparently withdrawn cash from a dispenser machine just before the incident. The relatives of the dead, however disputes the police’s claim.

There’s widespread resentment against the US over missile attacks in the restive north-western province and the latest incident may fuel anti-America sentiments further.

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