Pakistan court extends detention of US official despite growing pressure from US

A Pakistan judge further extended the detention of a US official accused of shooting two Pakistani men, increasing already-existing diplomatic strain between the countries.

Fareed Khan/AP
Supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamat-e-Islami chant slogans during a rally against Raymond Allen Davis, a US consulate employee suspected in the shooting deaths of two Pakistanis, in Karachi, Pakistan, Friday, Feb. 11.

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A Pakistani judge has ordered the American embassy worker accused of shooting two locals in Lahore to another two weeks in prison while the court prepares murder charges to be brought against him.

The detention of Raymond Davis, who alleges that he killed the men in self-defense during an attempted robbery, has added an additional layer of frost to US-Pakistan relations. This diplomatic standoff could prove particularly problematic for American officials trying to win Pakistani support for the war effort in Afghanistan.

US officials contend that Mr. Davis has diplomatic immunity and should be returned to American custody immediately. On Friday, the accused man’s lawyer filed a petition for his immediate release and questioned the Pakistani court’s authority to try Davis. A judge will hear arguments from Davis's attorney on Feb. 25, reports CNN.

As Pakistan continues to delay the release, ABC News reports that National Security Advisor Tom Donilon summoned Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, and threatened to expel him from the country, close US consulates in Pakistan, and cancel the Pakistani president’s upcoming US visit if Davis is not released by Friday.

Although several unnamed Pakistani and American officials have confirmed these reports, Mr. Haqqani denied on Twitter that no “US official, incl the NSA, has conveyed any personal threats 2 me or spoken of extreme measures."

US officials have also denied these reports, but Pakistani newspaper The Dawn reports that diplomatic pressure on Pakistan is increasing. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has publicly spoken out for the release of Davis and several American congressmen have also threatened to cut off US aid, particularly military assistance, if Pakistani authorities refuse to release Davis.

Pakistani officials contend that Davis’s diplomatic status remains unclear. Reports that Davis was formerly a member of the US special forces, as well as his competence with a handgun shown in the shooting, have fueled rumors that he may be part of a larger American covert military effort in Pakistan, The Financial Times reports. Lahore’s police chief, Aslam Tareen has also stated that his department now has evidence Davis killed in “cold blood,” not self-defense.

“Raymond Davis fired ten bullets,” said Mr. Tareen. “The evidence shows that this was a cold-blooded murder. It was not a self-defense case, it was clear-cut murder.”

Although Pakistani officials appear unwilling to grant Davis diplomatic immunity, The New York Times reports that Pakistani officials have privately acknowledged that Davis, who holds a diplomatic passport, is protected by the Vienna Conventions. In the face of fierce public opposition, however, senior American officials say their Pakistani counterparts “appear unable or unwilling to enforce the protocol.”

Some of the strongest protests against releasing Davis have come from Pakistan’s Islamist community, which has used the case to paint the current government as a "stooge" of the US, according to the Financial Times.

The country’s political and religious group Jamat-e-Islami spoke out Friday, saying that Davis does not have diplomatic immunity and must be tried according to Pakistani law, reports The News International. The group also warned the US not to make any attempts to claim Pakistan as a “silent colony,” and threatened to present a “wall of iron” if the US challenged Pakistani sovereignty.

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