Pak court bars govt from handing over American diplomat to US

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M Zulqernain and Rezaul H Laskar

Lahore/Islamabad, Feb 1 (PTI) A court today barred thegovernment from handing over to the US an American nationalarrested for gunning down two Pakistanis even as PrimeMinister Yousuf Raza Gilani asserted that his case will bedecided according to the country''s laws.

Lahore High Court Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhrydirected the government not to hand over Raymond Davis to theUS in response to petitions filed by lawyer Saeed Zafar andthree others.

The Chief Justice also directed authorities to put theAmerican''s name on the Exit Control List, which contains namesof people barred from travelling out of Pakistan.

"We restrain the government from handing over RaymondDavis to the US as the court has to decide the case," Chaudhryobserved.

The government should inform the High Court whetherDavis enjoys diplomatic immunity, he said.

Deputy Attorney General Navid Malik told the courtthat the US administration was yet to inform the governmentabout the diplomatic status of Davis.

He sought time from the court so that the governmentcould establish his diplomatic status.

The court sought a report in this regard from theForeign Ministry and adjourned the matter till February 17.

The Deputy Attorney General and Punjab AdvocateGeneral Khwaja Harris denied reports that Davis would beextradited. They said the government was not under pressurefrom any quarter on this matter.

During a meeting with Punjab Chief Minister ShahbazSharif in Islamabad, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilanidispelled the impression that his government is under pressureto release Davis.

"Rrule of law is supreme in the country and no one isabove the law," he said. The matter of the American is"sub-judice and we will respect the law of the land", Gilanisaid.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said federal andprovincial authorities will not hinder court proceedingsagainst Davis.

Talking to the media outside parliament, he saidDavis� "fate would be decided by the court".

Davis was arrested after he shot and killed two youthswhom he alleged were trying to rob him in a busy commercialarea of Lahore on Thursday.

A third Pakistani died when he was hit by a USconsulate car that was rushing to the aid of Davis.

The American, currently in police custody, contendedduring a court appearance last week that he had acted inself-defence.

Pakistani authorities have rejected a demand by the USfor the release of the American.

The US has argued that Davis is a member of thetechnical and administrative staff of the US Embassy inIslamabad and enjoyed diplomatic immunity.

In a related development, Deputy Prosecutor GeneralRana Bakhtiar resigned from his post today after being removedfrom the case of Davis. He had earlier told the media thatDavis does not have diplomatic immunity.

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