CIA contractor Raymond Davis has been released after families of the two Pakistanis he killed pardoned him in exchange for compensation. Davis' case has placed a serious strain on US-Pakistan ties.
Raymond Allen Davis, a CIA contractor, indicted for two counts of murder is released
A CIA contractor Raymond Davis, indicted earlier in the day on two murder charges in Pakistan, has been acquitted and released after a deal to pay blood money to families of the two Pakistani men he killed.
The deal ends a long-simmering diplomatic standoff between Washington and Islamabad.
Pakistani police escort arrested US citizen Raymond Davis, who claims he acted in self-defence
Following a lengthy court hearing on Wednesday at the Lahore jail where Davis had been detained under tight security, and where a media blackout had been imposed, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah has confirmed to Reuters that “the court acquitted him in the murder case."
Earlier on Wednesday the court had charged Davis on two counts of murder. "The court first indicted him but the families later told the court that they have accepted the blood money and they have pardoned him," said Sanaullah.
Deal to pay blood money
Blood money, or "diyat" is a provision commonly used under Pakistani and Islamic sharia law in which compensation can be paid to the relatives of those killed to secure a pardon.
Supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamat-e-Islami rally against Raymond Davis
Such payments are sanctioned by Islamic law and are common in some parts of rural Pakistan as a way to settle disputes. "He has been released from jail. Now it is up to him. He can go wherever he wants," Sanaullah told private Geo television.
Lawyers for the families of the two men who were shot dead said they were present for four hours at the jail court where Davis was being tried on Wednesday, but had not been allowed to witness proceedings.
"We were not allowed to leave the prison," one of the lawyers, Asad Manzoor Butt, told AFP. Butt claimed that the families of the men had agreed with authorities to accept blood money over the deaths the previous night.
Another laywer for the families, Nauman Atiq, confirmed that the lawyers were held at the court and ordered not to speak to media.
US-Pakistan stand-off ends
Raymond Davis, 36, a former special forces soldier, had been in jail since he shot dead two Pakistani men in the eastern city of Lahore on January 27. Davis has always claimed he acted in self-defence and has been backed by US authorities who say he was an embassy employee with full diplomatic immunity.
Banner in native language read "Raymond Davis should be hanged publicly"
The Davis case until now has created tension in relations between the United States and Pakistan, a vital ally in the US-led campaign against Taliban militants in Afghanistan.
It also strained ties between the CIA and Pakistan's main Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency which said it was unaware Davis was working in Pakistan.
Author: Sherpem Sherpa (Reuters/AFP/dpa)
Editor: Grahame Lucas