Wednesday, March 16, 2011

CIA contractor Ray Davis freed over Pakistan killings ~ relatives accepted blood money

Activists of the Pakistani fundamentalist Islamic party Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) shout slogans against the release of CIA contractor Raymond Davis during a protest in Karachi on March 16, 2011

He would not have gotten a fair trial anyway.

If they were out to rob what they thought was a vulnerable foreigner ~ the family was probably poor ~ and they took the deal.

A Pakistani court has freed a US CIA contractor after acquitting him of two counts of murder at a hearing held at a prison in Lahore, officials say.

Raymond Davis, 36, was alleged to have shot dead two men in the eastern city of Lahore in January following what he said was an attempted armed robbery.

The acquittal came when relatives of the dead men pardoned him in court.

They confirmed to the judge overseeing the case that they had received compensation - known as "blood money".

Pakistani protesters shout slogans during a demonstraion against the release of CIA contractor Raymond Davis in Lahore on March 16, 2011

Under Pakistani Sharia law, relatives of a murder victim can pardon the killer.

Reports say about 18 family members of the two dead men were in court on Wednesday and confirmed that they wanted Mr Davis to be freed and pardoned because they had received "blood money".

About 200 people protested against the acquittal in Lahore and there were small protests in other Pakistani cities.

Cameron Munter, the US ambassador to Pakistan, said that he was "grateful for the generosity" of the families.

Pakistani protesters torch tyres on a street during a demonstraion against the release of CIA contractor Raymond Davis in Lahore on March 16, 2011

"I wish to express, once again, my regret for the incident and my sorrow at the suffering it caused," he said.

Mr Munter said that the US Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the incident.

Washington has always insisted that Mr Davis had diplomatic immunity and was acting in self-defence.

A lawyer representing the family of one of those killed - Faizan Haider - told the BBC that the "blood money" deal was done without his knowledge and that he was in detention when it was made.

"I was not allowed to participate in the proceedings of the case... and could not see or approach my clients," Asad Manzoor Butt said.

"I and my associate were kept under forced detention for four hours.

"If my clients have indeed signed a blood money deal, then this has been done behind my back and I don't know anything about it."

As recently as three days ago, relatives told the BBC they wanted justice not compensation.

Aijaz Ahmad, a cousin of Faizan Haider, said that eight members of his immediate family have not been traceable since news of the deal emerged.

"There is a padlock on their door. Their phones are all switched off. If they have done this then they have acted dishonourably," he said.

The immediate family of the other man killed is also reported to have gone missing.

Illegal weapons

The BBC's Orla Guerin in Islamabad said that Mr Davis - a former US special forces member - had already been released from jail but his exact whereabouts were unknown.

She added that there were unconfirmed reports that he had already left Pakistan.

The deal to release him - made by the court sitting in his Lahore jail - ends a long-simmering diplomatic stand-off between Pakistan and the United States which had severely strained relations. It will come as a relief to both governments.

"The court first indicted him but the families later told court that they have accepted the blood money and they have pardoned him," Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told Reuters.

"The court acquitted him in the murder case."

Ms Sanaullah said that because Mr Davis was already on bail in a parallel case relating to possession of illegal weapons at the time of the killings, there was no reason why he should not also be released in that case too.

Mr Davis was arrested immediately after he shot dead two men. He has said that he killed them in self-defence as they were trying to rob him.

A third man was run over by a US vehicle that came to the American's aid but there have so far been no charges in relation to that case.

Public anger intensified after unnamed US officials said that Mr Davis had been secretly working for the CIA at the time and questions are likely to remain as to what he was exactly doing at the time.

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says it is not clear how much blood money was paid to the families of the dead men, and it may never be known.

Our correspondent, who visited the families recently in Lahore, says they had been under great pressure from right-wing religious parties not to accept blood money.

Hardline religious parties have led protests across Pakistan against Mr Davis in recent weeks and were keen to see him punished.


1 comment:

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