CIA contractor Raymond Davis freed after 'blood money' payment

By Greg Miller and Shaiq Hussain
Wednesday, March 16, 2011; 5:39 PM

A CIA security contractor who fatally shot two Pakistani men in January was released Wednesday after relatives of the victims received "blood money" as compensation and agreed to pardon him, U.S. officials said.

Raymond Davis was released from a Pakistani jail in Lahore after nearly two months in detention and was flown to meet with U.S. officials in Kabul. Cameron Munter, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, accompanied Davis on the flight, a U.S. official said.

"There has been a plan in the works for the last three weeks," the official said, adding that U.S. officials had desperately worked to free Davis before a threatened murder trial began. "The concern was that if the actual murder trial started it would become very difficult to extricate him."

Davis was arrested Jan. 27 after gunning down two Pakistani men at a traffic signal in Lahore. Davis later said that the two men were attempting to rob him and had brandished a weapon.

The U.S. official confirmed that so-called "blood money" had been paid to family members of the shooting victims. In Pakistan, there is a tradition of such payments in return for pardoning the perpetrator of a crime.

An official close to the negotiations said three Pakistani families each received between $700,000 and $1 million as part of the deal to free Davis. In addition to the two men killed by Davis, a third Pakistani died after being struck by a vehicle carrying CIA personnel attempting to retrieve Davis after the shooting.

The sources for this story asked to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to discuss details of the case.

The decision to free Davis resolves what had become a high-stakes tense diplomatic stand-off and a signal of mounting tensions between the CIA and its Pakistani counterpart, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, or ISI.

Punjab province law minister Rana Sanauallah told a Pakistani news channel that Davis was set free by the court after the blood money was accepted by the families of those killed, in accordance with Islamic Sharia law.

He said, "The members of the families of killed persons appeared before the court and independently confirmed that they have forgiven Davis."

When asked where Davis is now after his release, Sanaullah said, "He is a free American citizen and it is up to his own desire wherever he wants to go."

He also denied any role of Punjab government in the settlement of the issue. "This is also baseless that the families of those killed were pressurized to sign the papers as for the acceptance of 'blood money,' " he said.

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