US steps up pressure on Pak to release consular employee

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Rezaul H Laskar

Islamabad, Feb 3 (PTI) The US today stepped up pressureon Pakistan to release a consular employee arrested after heshot and killed two alleged robbers, saying his "continueddetention is a gross violation of international law".

"The US government has repeatedly communicated to thegovernment of Pakistan that the illegally detained diplomatenjoys diplomatic immunities under the Vienna Convention ofDiplomatic Relations (1961)," said a terse statement issued bythe American embassy.

This was the second demand made by the US in six days forthe release of Raymond Davis, who was arrested in Lahore onJanuary 27 after he gunned down two men who he claimed weretrying to rob him.

A third Pakistani died when he was hit by a US consulatevehicle rushing to the aid of Davis.

Pakistan''s top leaders, including President Asif AliZardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, have said thatthe American''s case will be decided in court according to thecountry''s laws.

The US Embassy''s statement said, "The United Statesgovernment once again calls upon the government of Pakistan toabide by its obligations under international and Pakistani lawand immediately release the American diplomat illegallydetained in Lahore".

The US Embassy has reiterated to the "government ofPakistan today that his continued detention is a grossviolation of international law".

Though the statement did not give details, diplomaticsources said the US Embassy today formally handed over ademarche to the Foreign Office seeking the release of Davis.

The sources said the demarche had noted that Davisenjoyed immunity under the provisions of Pakistan''s Diplomaticand Consular Privileges Act of 1972.

The statement said the US government notified Pakistan onJanuary 20, 2010 that "the American diplomat was assigned tothe US Embassy in Islamabad as a member of the administrativeand technical staff".

It added, "Under the Vienna Convention and Pakistanidomestic law, he is entitled to full criminal immunity andcannot be lawfully arrested or detained".

The statement further noted that the American wasremanded in court this morning "without notice to the USgovernment, without his lawyer present, and withouttranslation assistance".

He was "denied due process and a fair hearing", thestatement said.

The US Embassy said it deeply regrets that events inLahore involving Davis that "resulted in the loss of lifefollowing an attack on the diplomat by armed assailants".

It added, "however, the government of Pakistan mustcomply with its obligations under international and Pakistanilaw and ensure that he has immunity from criminaljurisdiction.

The US wants to work with the Pakistan government "towardthe expeditious resolution of this incident" and the"responsibility for the safety and well-being of the illegallydetained diplomat rests with the government of Pakistan andPunjab provincial authorities", the statement said.

Earlier in the day, a court in Lahore remanded Davis topolice custody for eight more days.

It also granted him bail in another case registeredagainst him for illegal possession of a weapon.

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