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US calls for immediate release US diplomat

PAKISTAN NEWS ISLAMABAD: The United States on Saturday called for the immediate release of a US diplomat it said was unlawfully detained by Pakistani authorities in Lahore, its embassy in Islamabad said.

US diplomat DevisThe man, previously described just as a consulate employee, is being held in police custody over Thursday’s shooting that resulted in the deaths of two men he said he killed in self-defence.

“When detained, the US diplomat identified himself to police as a diplomat and repeatedly requested immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” the embassy said in a statement.

It added, “Local police and senior authorities failed to observe their legal obligation to verify his status with either the US consulate general in Lahore or the US embassy in Islamabad”.

“Furthermore, the diplomat was formally arrested and remanded into custody, which is a violation of international norms and the Vienna Convention, to which Pakistan is a signatory.”

The man, named as Raymond Davis and described by the US State Department as an American civilian working for the US consulate in Lahore, was held at a police station on double murder charges over the deaths of two motorcyclists.

A third Pakistani was crushed to death by a consulate car that went to help Davis following the shooting in a busy street in the eastern city on Thursday.

“The diplomat, assigned to the US embassy in Islamabad, has a US diplomatic passport and Pakistani visa valid until June 2012,” the statement said.

Recalling the events that led to Davis’s arrest, it said the diplomat acted in self-defence when confronted by two armed men on motorcycles.

“The diplomat had every reason to believe that the armed men meant him bodily harm. Minutes earlier, the two men, who had criminal backgrounds, had robbed money and valuables at gunpoint from a Pakistani citizen in the same area.”

The embassy expressed regret that “this incident resulted in loss of life” and said it was “committed to working closely with the Pakistani government to secure the immediate release of the diplomat, as required under Pakistani and international law”.

Meanwhile, the US consulate on Saturday denied immediate access to the car and its driver who overran and killed Pakistani citizen Abdul Rehman on Qartaba chowk during the shooting incident.

According to sources, Lahore Police tried to access the driver and other people who were sitting in the car at the time of the incident by writing a letter to the US Consulate. However, the consulate denied the authorities immediate access.

A day earlier, provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah told the media that access would be given to the car and the people who were seated in it by Friday evening.

Moreover, Barrister Javed Iqbal requested Chief Justice Lahore High Court Ejaz Chaudhry in a letter to stop the US official from leaving the country.

A court on Friday handed over Davis to the police on a six day physical remand.

The incident sparked several small protests across the country on Friday, a sign of the anti-American sentiment that is already running high partly because of a covert US drone campaign in the northwest tribal areas that has provoked deadly revenge attacks by militants.

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