Lawyer calls for trial of US gunman

31 Jan 2011


People holding a demonstration against the killing of three persons by a US citizen in Lahore. — Online

LAHORE: A Pakistani lawyer called Monday for an American who shot dead two men last week to stand trial for murder despite US legal claims of diplomatic immunity.

Local lawyer Saeed Zafar filed the petition under public interest laws, claiming that Raymond Davis must stand trial in Pakistan and should be blocked from being handed over to the US government.

The US embassy in Islamabad has claimed diplomatic immunity on behalf of Davis, described as a consulate employee, who is under investigation on double murder charges after shooting dead two motorcyclists in Lahore Thursday.

Pakistan's courts have so far refused to release the gunman, who claims to have acted in self-defense to fend off an armed robbery.

The high court on Monday asked the government to respond to the petition.

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.

“I filed the petition because... a passer by who narrowly escaped in the firing came to me and asked me to file a case,” Zafar said.

“Since two Pakistani men were killed and the third one died in the related accident, and panic was caused because of the actions of Raymond Davis, his trial should be held in Pakistan,” he said.

A court official said that the chief justice of provincial Lahore high court heard the case in his chamber and “issued notices” to the country's top prosecutor to seek government advice and respond to the petition on Tuesday.

He also claimed that international law does not grant immunity from criminal prosecution, even if Davis is deemed to have diplomatic status.

Article 41 of the Vienna Convention states: “Consular officers shall not be liable to arrest or detention pending trial, except in the case of a grave crime and pursuant to a decision by the competent judicial authority.”

The US embassy in a statement late Sunday reiterated its claim of diplomatic immunity, saying Davis - whose exact status has been unclear - was a member of the “technical and administrative staff” at the embassy.

“Article 37 of the Vienna Convention specifically extends the same criminal immunity that diplomats have to members of the 'technical and administrative staff' of an embassy,” it said.

Thursday's incident sparked small protests across Pakistan on Friday.