Developments in the Raymond Davis case are continuing. Davis’ double murder trial for his killing of two Pakistani citizens on January 27 in Lahore will resume on March 8, with the hearing on his immunity status still postponed until March 14. David Ignatius reported earlier this week that the concept of the payment of blood money is being discussed as a way out of the impasse, and the Washington Post is continuing with that theme today. In a somewhat related development, five German nationals have been arrested in Lahore as Pakistan continues to review the documentation of foreign nationals who might fit the profiles of Raymond Davis or Aaron Dehaven.
Here is Dawn’s description of the proceedings Thursday in the “sessions court” which is hearing the double murder charges against Davis, with the proceedings being carried out in the Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore:
A sessions court rejected on Thursday US citizen Raymond Davis’s claim that he enjoyed diplomatic immunity and decided to go ahead with his trial.
“I also told the court since various petitions relating to Davis’s immunity are being heard by the Lahore High Court, trying the accused right now will be a wastage of time,” Mr Bukhari said.
He said the court, however, rejected his plea saying it had not received any stay order from the superior court.
Mr. Bukhari is a retired judge who is Davis’ defense attorney. The article then went on to state that the trial was adjourned until March 8.
With the murder trial moving ahead before the hearing on immunity, the parallel pressure for a “blood money” route becomes very significant. Here is Ignatius’ description from Wednesday:
This approach would require a prominent Islamic intermediary – perhaps from Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates – who would invite relatives of the two men Davis killed to the Gulf. Payment to the victims’ families could then be negotiated quietly. Once the next of kin had agreed to this settlement, the legal case against Davis for murder might be moot in a Pakistani court.
A senior Pakistani official in Washington outlined this “blood money” concept in a conversation Monday. An official of that country’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate also endorsed this approach; he said it had the advantage of meshing with the dispute-resolution customs of the Middle East and South Asia.
Asked about such a third-party mediation to free Davis, a senior U.S. official said Tuesday: “The United States is open to exploring any and all options that could resolve this matter. . . . It’s in our mutual interest to move beyond the Davis issue, and we believe the Pakistanis understand the stakes involved.”
So it would appear that Ignatius, who has a reputation for close contact with the CIA, has been in contact also with ISI. Both ISI and the CIA appear to be leaning in favor of blood money, at least as Ignatius would have us believe. This approach puts Davis’ fate in the hands of the families of those killed, and this remarkable interview with several of the family members shows that getting forgiveness from them is not going to be easy:
What is important here is that the decision by the families on whether to accept blood money must be made prior to a verdict being rendered in the murder trial. Since the trial now is slated to resume on Tuesday, these negotiations have little time left.
It is intriguing to me that the Lahore High Court has chosen not to order the murder trial delayed until after it makes a decision on immunity. Perhaps the High Court has decided that should the families not opt to accept blood money, a strategic outcome might be to allow a guilty verdict to be rendered and then to declare immunity after the fact. Perhaps such immunity after the fact would come conditioned on some sort of promise from the US to jail Davis for his crime.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s process of examining the immigration status of foreign nationals who might be involved in intelligence continues. Following on the arrest of US national Aaron DeHaven last week, five German nationals were arrested in Lahore on Friday, and just as was the case for Davis, they are said to have had “sensitive” photos on their cameras:
Five German nationals were arrested in Lahore on Friday for not having their travel documents.
According to Express 24/7 correspondent Shiraz Hasnat, the foreigners were not able to provide their documents and were taken into custody for questioning by the police.
The reporter said that police had found snapshots on their cameras of the railway headquarters and other senstive [sic] areas nearby.
Stay tuned for further developments.