US says American entitled to diplomatic immunity in Pakistan

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Rezaul H Laskar

Islamabad, Jan 30 (PTI) The US today mounted a defencefor an American facing a double murder charge for shooting twoPakistani men in Lahore, saying he was a member of the USmission''s staff and entitled to diplomatic immunity.

A statement issued by the US Embassy this eveningsaid: "The US diplomat detained in Lahore is a member of theUS Embassy''s technical and administrative staff, and thereforeentitled to full criminal immunity and cannot be lawfullyarrested or detained in accordance with the (ViennaConvention".

The Embassy noted that the Vienna Convention onDiplomatic Relations provides diplomatic immunity to alldiplomats around the world.

It said Article 37 of the Convention specificallyextends "the same criminal immunity that diplomats have tomembers of the technical and administrative staff of anEmbassy".

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilanideclined to comment on the case of the US national arrested byPakistani police for shooting dead two men in Lahore, sayingthe matter was in court and being investigated by authorities.

Gilani said he had already condemned the incident.

"The Punjab government is conducting an inquiry intothis matter and I will not comment till it is completed," hesaid.

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar told mediathat no pressure can force authorities to free the American.

The matter is in the court, which will make adecision, he said.

Pakistani authorities have already rejected a USdemand to release an American who shot dead two youths inLahore, saying the matter would be handled in court accordingto the country''s laws.

Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit told the mediatoday that the matter was already in court and Punjab Policewere investigating Thursday''s shooting incident in Lahore.

"It would not be appropriate to publicly talk on thisissue," he said.

The American � identified in media reports as RaymondDavis � shot and killed two armed youths who he claimed weretrying to rob him.

A third Pakistani national died when he was hit by aUS consulate car rushing to the aid of the American.

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