- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Justice Department plans to investigate the fatal shooting last month of two Pakistani men by a U.S. Consulate employee who said he killed them in self-defense. The State Department, meanwhile, continues efforts to free the American from jail, complaining Pakistan violated diplomatic immunity by arresting him.

“It is our practice to conduct criminal investigations of such incidents, and we intend to follow that practice here, considering all the facts and relevant laws,” Alisa Finelli, a Justice Department spokeswoman, told The Washington Times on Wednesday.

Raymond Davis, 36, has said he shot the two men because they tried to rob him as he was driving in the city of Lahore on Jan. 27.

Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, traveled to Pakistan this week to seek Mr. Davis’ release on the grounds that he has diplomatic immunity.

Mr. Kerry assured Pakistani officials that Mr. Davis would face a criminal inquiry if he is allowed to return to the U.S. In a meeting with Mr. Kerry, Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani suggested that the United States could provide financial compensation to the victims’ families in exchange for Mr. Davis’ release.

Meanwhile, a relative of one of the victims said Mr. Davis should get the death sentence.

“We will only accept blood for blood,” said Imran Haider, the eldest brother of Faizan Haider, one of the slain men, according to a Reuters news agency report. “He should be tried in Pakistan and sentenced to death here.”

The United States will present a petition to the Lahore high court on Thursday to certify that Mr. Davis has diplomatic immunity and should be released.

Pakistan’s former foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, on Wednesday added a twist to the tale when he told reporters he had been informed by legal advisers that Mr. Davis did not qualify for blanket diplomatic immunity.

Mr. Qureshi was dropped from the Pakistani Cabinet following a reshuffle this month.

There is some confusion over Mr. Davis’ status. U.S. officials say he is an embassy employee, but he was attached to the U.S. Consulate in Lahore at the time of the incident. Consulate employees do not always get the same level of immunity as embassy staffers.

The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963 Article 41 (1) states: “Consular officers shall not be liable to arrest or detention pending trial, except in the case of a grave crime and pursuant to a decision by the competent judicial authority.”

U.S. officials have been citing the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, which is applicable to diplomats of an embassy, while the convention of 1963 applies to members of a consulate.

In a Jan. 28 statement, the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad described Mr. Davis as a “staff member of the U.S. Consulate General in Lahore.”

“This has become an issue” in the Pakistan-U.S. relationship, said a Pakistani official, who spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter.

However, State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said Mr. Davis’ diplomatic immunity “is — from our standpoint — not a matter in dispute.”

Mr. Davis is a former Special Forces soldier who left the army in August 2003 after 10 years of service. He and his wife run Hyperion Protective Services.

• Ashish Kumar Sen can be reached at asen@washingtontimes.com.

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