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Raymond Davis Freed After Payment of Blood Money

4:58 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Raymond Davis on the day of his arrest. (screengrab from YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-kcRDhatoM)

With all of the attention on Japan in the past few days, I missed the scheduled hearing date of March 14 for Raymond Davis’ immunity question to be settled. It turns out the Lahore High Court punted on that issue on the 14th, and referred the immunity question back to the criminal trial which was underway but in recess. Today, however, Davis was released after payment of blood money to the surviving family members of his victims. This is likely not to go over well in Pakistan, where a group of ex-military members yesterday called for Davis to be waterboarded, in order to eliminate his “network”.

Here is Dawn on the release:

A Pakistan court on Wednesday freed CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who was accused of murdering two men in Lahore, after blood money was paid in accordance with sharia law, the Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said.

“The family members of the slain men appeared in the court and independently verified they had pardoned him (Davis),” provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah told private Geo television.

“He has been released from jail. Now it is up to him. He can go wherever he wants,” he added.

The Express Tribune has more:

Initial reports from sources state that Davis has been flown to London.

A sessions court has acquitted Davis. Earlier in the day, a sessions court judge in Lahore had formally indicted US national Davis.

On Monday, the Lahore High Court had refused to rule on the question of diplomatic immunity for Davis, sending the question back to the sessions court where he was being tried in the murder case:

The Lahore High Court (LHC) ruled on Monday that the matter of immunity for US citizen Raymond Davis will be decided by the trial court, and disposed of all petitions challenging his diplomatic status in Pakistan.

When the government replied vaguely on the issue, LHC Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry silenced petitioners’ lawyers — who created pandemonium after hearing unclear replies submitted by the foreign ministry, — by observing that since the Davis trial was in progress, the trial court should be allowed to “adjudicate on this matter”.

Questioning the government counsel if his side had submitted any letter establishing his diplomatic status, the chief justice said that if the foreign ministry did not issue any letter for the diplomatic status of the accused, why should the court insist on submitting such a certificate?

As a preview of how badly Davis’ release will be received in Pakistan, consider this call from a group of ex-servicemembers yesterday for Davis to be waterboarded:

The 2,000-member strong Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association (PESA) is joining political parties, religious groups and security officials by diving headfirst into the chatter over the Raymond Davis issue. It plans to stage a protest in Islamabad on March 23 to raise awareness about “issues of national interest”, including the case of Raymond Davis.

/snip/

The demands laid out in an e-mail sent to PESA’s members call for the use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding.

The e-mail says: “Raymond Davis is seen as a saboteur operating as a mercenary for the destabilisation of Pakistan, under the protection of the US government. He has been creating and executing threats to the security of our citizens and homeland. He must be fully interrogated using all methods (including water-boarding) that are used by the US against those who act against the security of the US. His network and methods must be followed and eliminated. Probability of other mercenaries/CIA operated networks must be investigated through him.”

According to a 2004 CIA report, 9/11 suspect Khalid Shaikh Mohammad was waterboarded 183 times. The report defined the technique: “The application of the waterboard technique involves binding a detainee to a bench with his feet elevated over his head. The detainee’s head is immobilised and an interrogator places a cloth over the detainee’s mouth and nose while pouring water onto the cloth in a controlled manner. Airflow is restricted for 20 to 40 seconds and the technique produces the sensation of drowning and suffocation.”

I will watch for reports of reaction to Davis’ release.

Raymond Davis Murder Trial Proceeds, Blood Money Discussed, Germans Arrested

8:13 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

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.

/snip/

“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.

Why Is Darrell Issa in Pakistan Asking President, PM for Release of Raymond Davis?

6:12 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Update (Wednesday): The Guardian now has a story on this situation.

We learn from Dawn.com Tuesday that Raymond Davis, a US “consular employee” who killed two men on Thursday in Lahore, has been placed on the exit control list, barring his exit from Pakistan. Remarkably, Representative Darrell Issa led a small Congressional delegation that met on Tuesday with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zadari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, seeking release of Davis, according to Pakistan’s Online International News Network. Those meetings came a day after State Department spokesman Philip Crowley declared that as a consular employee, Davis has full diplomatic immunity.

The story in Dawn.com opens with Davis’ exit from Pakistan being blocked:

A judge on Tuesday blocked any move to hand over to US authorities an American government employee under investigation for double murder, and put his name on the exit control list.

/snip/

“I am restraining him (from being handed over to US authorities). Whether he has or does not have (diplomatic) immunity will be decided by the court,” ruled Lahore High Court Chief Justice Ejaz Ahmed Chaudhry.

“An order is issued to put his name on the ECL (exit control list). The case is adjourned for 15 days.”

The story ends with this intriguing revelation:

When asked by visiting US congressmen on Monday to free Davis, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari said: “It would be prudent to wait for the legal course to be completed”.

After a bit of digging, I found this story on the visiting delegation:

A US congressional delegation Monday separately called on President Asif Ali Zardari at Aiwan-e-Sadr and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani at PM House. The delegation included Representatives Darell El Issa, Todd R. Platts, Jason Chaffetz, Stephen F. Lynch, Brian M. Higgins and Raul L. Labrador. Mr. Stephen Engelken, Charge d’ Affairs, Mr. Thomas A. Alexander, senior Counsel (Majority) Committee on Oversight, Mr. Adam Pl. Fromm, Counsel (Majority) Director of Member Services and Mr. Scott Lindsay, Counsel (Majority) Committee on Oversight, were also present.

Pak side included Dr. Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Finance Minister, Mr. M. Salman Faruqui, Secretary General to the President, Ch. Abdul Ghafoor, Chairman National Commission for Government Reforms , Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar, MOS for EAD/Finance, Senator Syeda Sughra Imam, Ms. Farahnaz Ispahani and Spokesperson to the President Mr. Farhatullah Babar besides Foreign Secretary Mr. Salman Bashir and other senior officials. Briefing media Spokesperson to the President Mr. Farhatullah Babar said that matters relating to Pak-US bilateral relations, mutual cooperation, fight against militancy, ROZs and security situation in the region among other related issues were discussed during the meeting.

But why would a Congressional delegation working on trade and terrorism control involve itself in the Davis case? More from the same link:

Babar said the Congressmen also raised the matter of Mr. Raymond Davis, involved in the killing of Pakistani nationals in Lahore, with the President. The President said that he appreciated their concern but the matter was already before the courts. It would be prudent to wait for the legal course to be completed, he said.

Requests for Davis’ release had already been publicly issued by the State Department. From AFP:

“He is a member of the embassy’s technical administrative staff and therefore entitled to full criminal immunity. He cannot be lawfully arrested or detained in accordance with the Vienna Convention,” said State Department spokesman Philip Crowley on Monday.

Crowley said Washington agreed with the US employee’s version of events: “In our view, he acted in self-defense, when confronted by two armed men on motorcycles.”

The video above brings the US version of events into question. Note that both of Davis’ victims were shot multiple times, which seems at odds with mere self-defense. Note also on the crawler near the end of the video where it is stated that some are charging Davis with being a spy. That is most likely the true heart of the matter. ABC News has done some digging on Davis and has come up with this bit of background:

Davis runs Hyperion Protective Consultants, LLC, a company that provides “loss and risk management professionals.”

A key question as this story continues to unfold will be whether Davis (or Hyperion) was directly employed by the consulate or if he was working as a contractor for another entity such as Erik Prince’s Xe. At any rate, if requests for his release were deemed worthy of direct requests from a Congressional delegation to Pakistan’s President and Prime Minister in separate meetings, it is probably safe to assume that Davis’ “technical” responsibilities in the consulate were not insignificant.

Also note that Crowley claimed that Davis’s victims were small-time thieves who had robbed another victim shortly before they encountered Davis:

The diplomat, Raymond Davis, “had every reason to believe that the armed men meant him bodily harm. And minutes earlier, the two men, who had criminal records, had robbed money and valuables at gunpoint from a Pakistani citizen in the same area,” said Crowley.

There is no mention of the earlier robbery in the Pakistani news video above.