U.S. diplomat says he killed in self-defense
Saturday, January 29, 2011
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - A U.S. official being held in the fatal shooting of two Pakistani men told a court in the eastern city of Lahore on Friday that he had killed them in self-defense.
The official, based at the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, said the men had tried to rob him while he waited at a busy intersection in his car. A second consular vehicle that he summoned for help struck and killed a motorcyclist as it sped to the scene, police said.
A judge ordered the official held in custody for six days for further questioning.
Pakistani officials insisted Friday that the American, identified as Raymond Allen Davis, would receive no special treatment while possible charges of murder and illegal weapons possession are investigated.
"No one will be allowed to breach the law in Pakistan," Interior Minister Rehman Malik told legislators. "The law will take its due course."
But other Pakistani and U.S. officials, who would not discuss the sensitive matter on the record, said that Davis was clearly in the country on a diplomatic passport and visa, and was immune from any prosecution. The U.S. government has demanded his release on that basis, officials said. In the meantime, the embassy has asked for consular access to him.
The incident has generated enormous media coverage in Pakistan and threatened to strain U.S. relations with the country, a key ally and recipient of U.S. assistance. The deaths are being widely depicted as an illustration of Americans' disregard for ordinary Pakistanis and as a test case of the unpopular central government's capacity to stand up to its U.S. sponsors.
Davis arrived in Pakistan in September 2009 as a "technical adviser" to the consulate in Lahore, according to sources who said his job was to assist in vetting visa applicants. His initial three-month diplomatic visa, listing his birth year as 1974 and a home address in Las Vegas, has been repeatedly extended at U.S. request since then.
The CIA has declined to comment on whether he worked for the agency, although Pakistani officials said they do not believe he is an intelligence agent. Under special budget provisions, the State Department has given diplomatic status to hundreds of temporary employees hired in recent years, some of them through contractors, to bolster the ranks of rapidly expanding embassies in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Officials have declined to say why Davis had a gun.
Except for those assigned to the Peshawar consulate, in the northern part of the country near tribal areas, U.S. diplomatic officials are permitted to drive alone in their own vehicles in Pakistan, although many prefer instead to travel with security details. Robberies are fairly common, and Islamist militants stage regular bombings and kidnappings.
The use of security convoys by embassies and the question of whether diplomats should be permitted to carry weapons have been sources of controversy in recent years.