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.
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.
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.