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CIA contractor Raymond Davis freed from Pakistan jail on 'blood money'

A Pakistani court freed detained CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who was charged with killing two men, after families of the deceased accepted a 'blood money' deal. The US denies it paid the money.

By Issam AhmedCorrespondent / March 16, 2011

Supporters of Pakistan's religious and political party Jamaat-e-Islami shout slogans as they take part in a protest against the release of CIA contractor Raymond Davis in Karachi on March 16. Davis was acquitted of two counts of murder Wednesday after 'blood money' was paid to the families of the two men he shot dead.

Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

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Lahore, Pakistan

A CIA contractor held by Pakistani authorities was acquitted of two counts of murder Wednesday after blood money was paid to the families of the two men he shot dead. The verdict brings an end to a diplomatic row between the US and Pakistan that began after the contractor's arrest in late January, but could lead to further unrest here.

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Protests by religious parties broke out in Lahore near the US consulate Wednesday evening as 200 protesters, angered by the verdict to free Raymond Davis, burned tires and scuffled with police.

“This was not a case of personal enmity resulting in murder – it’s an act of terrorism of an American citizen and blood money [should] not [have been] applicable,” says Yahya Mujahid, a spokesman for Islamic charity Jamat-ud-Dawa, which experts believe is a front organization for Laskhar-e-Taiba, the militant organization Davis was apparently observing in reconnaissance missions.

The Pakistani government, by contrast, had hoped to save face in public by allowing the courts to decide on the politically sensitive issue. "The Raymond Davis issue was decided under Pakistani laws in a Pakistani court," said President Asif Al Zardairi's spokesperson Farhnaz Ispahani in a tweet shortly after the verdict.

Some 18 relatives of the two slain men, Muhammad Fahim and Faizan Haider, were present in court to accept the money “and independently verified they had pardoned him [Davis],” provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah told private television channel Geo News.

Blood-money, or "diyya," is routinely used to settle murder cases in Pakistan, in compliance with Sharia law. It was seen as the last ditch effort to free Davis by the US authorities after the Lahore High Court failed to accept US claims of diplomatic immunity on Monday.

In comments to reporters in Cairo, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denied that the US made the payment Wednesday. Though the US denies paying compensation in the case, Pakistani media reports indicate that more than $2 million were given to the two families, though this could not be verified at time of writing.

In a statement, US ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter also said, “The families of the victims of the January 27 incident in Lahore have pardoned Raymond Davis. I am grateful for their generosity. I wish to express, once again, my regret for the incident and my sorrow at the suffering it caused.”

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