US seeks release of murder suspect in Pakistan

Player utilities

Listen to the story.

[Report]
US senator John Kerry voiced regret for the killings of two Pakistanis by an American embassy official.

Kerry was the eastern city of Lahore Tuesday to resolve a bitter diplomatic row over the man's fate.

The senator reiterated Washington's stance that the man should be freed under
diplomatic immunity and told reporters that the United States would conduct its own investigation into the killings.

But many Pakistanis believe the killing was cold-blooded murder. And they don't think that Davis deserves diplomatic immunity. A video making the rounds on Pakistani television backs up their skepticism.

In it, Punjab police interrogate Raymond Davis after the shooting. He tells them that he works "as a contractor" for a company called R.E.O.

For many, the claim that he's just a contractor proves he does not have diplomatic immunity.

The Pakistani media is also showing a second video – this one of the last words of the wife of one of Davis' victims. She took poison to kill herself and was rushed to the hospital. Before she died, she gave an interview on her hospital bed.

"I want justice," the woman said. "I want blood in exchange for blood. From my government, from the courts, from the media, from the people, I want justice."

That appears to be the major sentiment across the country. Abira Ashfaq is a human rights activist and law professor.
'Pakistanis want to see justice'

"Pakistanis are furious. Pakistanis want to see this man prosecuted for the homicide of three people," Ashfaq said. "And Pakistanis don't want his immunity waived. Pakistanis want to see justice."

Raymond Davis, it seems, united a usually divided Pakistani populace when he shot and killed two men in broad daylight in crowded Lahore. Autopsy reports of the two men show that they were shot in the front and back – complicating Davis' claim that he killed them in self-defense as they attempted to rob him.

A third bystander was also killed when he was run over by a consular vehicle as it rushed down the wrong way on a one-way lane to pick Davis up. Police recovered a Glock handgun, several magazine rounds, and a pocket telescope among other items when they arrested Davis.

For most Pakistanis, this stash is evidence of American contempt for Pakistani life – and duplicity when it comes to the rule of law.

Awab Alvi is a popular blogger who goes by the pen name Teeth Maestro.

He pointed to the case of Mullah Zaeef, an Afghan Ambassador who was picked up from Islamabad after Sept. 11 and spent five years in Guantanamo.

"The Americans did not respect diplomatic immunity status there," Alvi said. "They wanted to misuse that diplomatic immunity status and they took an ambassador of Afghanistan to America, to Guantanamo Bay, while here they're contesting a person who is debated on the fact that he's a diplomat or not."

The issue turns on whether Raymond Davis legally enjoys diplomatic immunity. It should be relatively clear cut, but it isn't.

Under the Vienna Conventions — which govern the diplomat system — Davis would have immunity if Pakistan's Foreign Ministry had certified him as a diplomat when he entered the country. But the ministry isn't talking. And, the US government's own statements appear to contradict each other.
Suspension of talks

The Pakistani government is now expected to tell the court it believes Davis has immunity. But many believe they're just succumbing to US pressure. The Obama administration has suspended high level talks and is threatening to withdraw its consular officials if Davis is not released.

If Davis is prosecuted, the American government worries that it will set a bad precedent for the safety of its diplomats.

President Barack Obama spoke about the issue on Tuesday.

"There are ambassadors there are various embassy personnel are having to deliver tough messages where we disagree with them on X, Y, Z and they start being vulnerable to prosecution locally, that's untenable and that's why we respect these conventions and every country should as well," Obama said.

For Pakistanis on the other hand, the issue is one of safety for ordinary citizens if Davis does not get prosecuted. And, it's a question about whether Pakistani sovereignty is effectively dead in the face of American power.

Human rights activist Abira Ashfaq called this a moral issue.

"It is an issue about justice, about our sovereignty, about our autonomy and about the future safety of the people of Pakistan," Ashfaq said. "I don't think the aims of the VC are being met if we're allowing like this to operate and also kill people and get away with it."

Ashfaq said that while the Islamists and other anti-government forces may try to use this issue to whip up anti-American sentiment it's not just the usual suspects lining up to oppose the regime.

"This is coming from the progressives and secularists," Ashfaq said. "We want to see him tried. We want to see him detained. We want to see him go to jail for what he's done and for murder, it's a life sentence."