A Lahore high court has deferred ruling on a claim of diplomatic immunity by US citizen Raymond Davis and moved the decision to a lower court, which will try Davis on charges of double murder.
Pakistan court defers ruling on diplomatic immunity by US CIA's Raymond Davis
A Pakistan court due to rule on a claim of diplomatic immunity by Raymond Allen Davis working for the US's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on Monday has moved the decision to a lower court that has already ruled that the trial should proceed. Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry of the High Court in Lahore said in his order that the "matter about immunity" will be decided at the trial court.
Supporters of religious party rally against Raymond Davis, suspected of killing two Pakistani men
"The petitions related to immunity are disposed of because today the Foreign Office has not clearly told us whether there is immunity in this case or not," said Chaudhry. "They are not claiming immunity so what is the hurry for us? The matter is in the trial court and if someone produces some certificate or claim of immunity then that court can decide about it."
The lower court trying Davis on double murder accusations is due to meet on Wednesday to frame the charges. If convicted, Davis could face the death penalty.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry was expected to clarify the diplomatic status of American Raymond Davis, 36, who shot dead two Pakistani men in a busy Lahore street on January 27. Davis claims he acted in self-defence and the United States says he has diplomatic immunity and should be repatriated.
US-Pakistan ties severed
"Raymond Davis came to Pakistan on an official business visa... no attempt has been made to alter the official record. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not interfering in any way in investigations," said deputy attorney general Naveed Inayat Malik speaking for the government outside the court.
The Raymond Davis case has strained ties between US and Pakistan
Revelations that Davis was a CIA contractor have heaped pressure on Pakistan's embattled government and further ramped up burning public mistrust of Washington, damaging fragile relations between the two wary allies.
At a cabinet meeting following the court hearing, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani stated that the "Raymond Davis issue will be resolved in the best national interest and according to the aspirations of the nation."
Nonetheless, the case has strained ties between the CIA and Pakistan's main Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, which said it was unaware Davis was working in Pakistan. Washington has expressed fears for Davis' safety in custody, and has said it holds the Pakistani government responsible for his well-being.
The US postponed a round of high-level talks with Afghanistan and Pakistan following failed attempts to get Davis out, and US lawmakers threatened to cut aid to Pakistan unless he is freed.
There is speculation that the US might back payment of compensation, or blood money, to the victims' families. Such payments are sanctioned by Islamic law and are common in some parts of rural Pakistan as a way to settle disputes. But the victims' families would have to agree.
Pakistani demonstrators rally against Raymond Davis who claims he acted in self-defence
"The best, perhaps the only, option for the government is to pacify the relatives of those killed to come to some compromise," said Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani general. "It's the only option everyone seems to be working on."
Under that scenario, Pakistan could facilitate US contact with the families of the two slain men and, presumably, the family of a third man who was struck and killed by a US vehicle going to help Davis after the shooting, to offer a deal.
Davis is being tried for murder at the Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore where he is being held under tight security.
Author: Sherpem Sherpa (AFP/Reuters)
Editor: Sarah Berning