'Convoluted' Davis case appears to be based on smoke and mirrors: US legal expert

London, Feb 25(ANI): The case of double-murder accused American official Raymond Davis is very convoluted, and no matter what the US government says, this is not an open-and-shut case, former State Department lawyer Ron Mlotek insists.

A storm of media speculation has enveloped the case of CIA official Davis, who is currently under detention in Pakistan on murder charges, as officials from both countries seek to shape public opinion in an increasingly fraught diplomatic and legal standoff.

"The American case is very convoluted and appears to be based on smoke and mirrors," The Guardian quoted Mlotek, who retired two years ago after 25 years of service in the State Department examining such cases, as saying.

He argued that even if the US could prove that Davis is a diplomat, Pakistan could challenge immunity on the basis that he was carrying an illegal weapon, worked from a 'spy agency safe house' and was not living in Islamabad, where the embassy claims he was based.

"No matter what the US government says, this is not an open-and-shut case. The facts are far from clear," Mlotek said.

While one front-page media story accused Davis of working with Taliban bombers to sow chaos across Pakistan, other accounts have variously suggested that he is addicted to chewing tobacco, howls during prayers, enjoys jailhouse visits from women and spends hours playing Ludo to fend off depression.

US officials continue to insist that Davis is a bona-fide diplomat, therefore immune from prosecution. Conditions are so dangerous at the jail where Davis is being held, they say, that dogs test his food before he proceeds to eat, his guards have been disarmed and he is at the constant risk of assassination.

"This issue is mired in so many versions of the truth that it's hard to know who's telling the truth and who isn't," said Cyril Almeida, a Pakistani newspaper columnist. "My guess is that all sides are lying."

Meanwhile, Pakistan's premier spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence has reportedly stopped talking with the Central Intelligence Agency at any level. Complaining of American arrogance and heavy-handed pressure, the ISI says its links to the CIA have been badly damaged by the affair, warning that it was "hard to predict if the relationship will ever reach [its prior] level".

It is not just a case of wounded amour propre (self-esteem), as analysts say that the Pakistan Army is using this controversy to its advantage.

"Are they hoping that settling this matter amicably will lead to some concessions or a change in American attitude on other issues? Possibly," said Almeida.

The Lahore High Court has adjourned the Davis case until March 14 after Pakistan's Foreign Ministry sought more time to file its reply on the immunity status of the arrested US official. But given the public uproar, Pakistani analysts say it is hard to see how the government can politically afford to set him free.

"This has become a big mess, for the Americans as well as the Pakistanis," said Talat Masood, a retired general and analyst. "There's no easy solution, and both sides need to let things calm down for a while. Otherwise it will get out of hand." (ANI)

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