Pak rebuffs call for US gunman`s quick release

Raymond Davis shot dead two motorcyclists in a Lahore street this week.

Islamabad: Pakistan on Sunday rebuffed a call from the United States for the immediate release of an American man who shot dead two men in a Lahore street, saying its legal process must be respected.

The US embassy had claimed diplomatic immunity on behalf of Raymond Davis, previously described as a consulate employee, who is under investigation on double murder charges after shooting dead the two motorcyclists this week.

"This matter is sub judice in a court of law and the legal process should be respected," Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said in a statement, adding that a report was awaited from Punjab police.

Davis, who has been held at a Lahore police station since the incident, appeared before a magistrate`s court on Friday and said he had fired in self-defence. He was remanded into police custody for six days.

On Saturday, two days after the deadly shooting, the US embassy in Islamabad released a statement saying he had diplomatic status and was therefore being detained unlawfully.

"When detained, the US diplomat identified himself to police as a diplomat and repeatedly requested immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations," it said.

"Local police and senior authorities failed to observe their legal obligation to verify his status with either the US consulate general in Lahore or the US embassy in Islamabad.”

"Furthermore, the diplomat was formally arrested and remanded into custody, which is a violation of international norms and the Vienna Convention, to which Pakistan is a signatory."

The statement said the man had a diplomatic passport and a visa for Pakistan valid until June 2012, and added that he had acted in self-defence when two armed men on motorcycles tried to rob him.

"The diplomat had every reason to believe that the armed men meant him bodily harm. Minutes earlier, the two men, who had criminal backgrounds, had robbed money and valuables at gunpoint from a Pakistani citizen in the same area," it said.

Provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said that the US should respect Pakistan`s courts and should raise the issue of diplomatic immunity there.

"The Punjab government respects the sentiments of the Pakistani public and wants to fulfil legal requirements," he said in Lahore.

US Ambassador Cameron Munter telephoned Pakistan Muslim League (N) chief Nawaz Sharif on Saturday and sought his help to secure Davis` release, Sharif`s spokesman Pervaiz Rashid said.

Sharif, whose PML(N) rules the politically important Punjab province, also told the ambassador that the matter was to be handled by the court, he said.

Police said on Friday that two handguns had been found close to the victims` bodies, but that they so far appeared to have no previous criminal record.

Imran Haider, the elder brother of one of the motorcyclists, 22-year-old Faizan Haider, claimed his brother only carried a pistol for protection and insisted the gun was licensed.

A third Pakistani was crushed to death by a consulate car that went to help Davis following the shooting in a busy street in the eastern city.

Punjab provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah has said that American influence would not be allowed to affect the criminal proceedings.

Pakistan is a vital US ally in the American-led "war on terror".

The US embassy said it regretted that "this incident resulted in loss of life" and said: "We greatly value the cooperation and partnership between Pakistan and the United States, which is vital to the interests of both countries."

The incident sparked small protests across Pakistan on Friday, a sign of the anti-American sentiment that is already running high partly because of a covert US drone campaign in the northwest tribal areas that has provoked deadly revenge attacks by militants.

Bureau Report

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