LAHORE, Feb 25: As the trial of American national Raymond Davis in the Jan 27 double murder case began in Kot Lakhpat jail on Friday, the accused refused to formally receive a copy of the challan (case papers), claiming diplomatic immunity.
“The accused got a copy of the challan from the court of Additional District and Sessions Judge Mohammad Youssuf Aujla, but declined to give a receipt of the papers with his signatures,” Punjab's Additional Prosecutor
General (APG) Abdul Samad told Dawn.
He said receipt of legal documents signed by the accused was not compulsory but a practice in courts.
When the court gave a copy of the challan to the accused, he submitted an official letter from the US embassy and said that being a diplomat he had immunity in the case.
“According to this letter, I enjoy complete immunity under the Vienna conventions and my detention in jail as well as trial is illegal,” the APG quoted Davis as having said before the court.
He later demanded an English language version of the challan, which was provided to him, but he didn't give a receipt.
As no lawyer appeared in the court on behalf of the accused, the judge asked him to engage an attorney for his defence.
The judge adjourned the hearing till March 3 after delivering the accused a copy of the challan comprising FIR No.47/2011, the first inspection note of the investigating officer and statements of witnesses under Sections 173 and 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and receiving the US embassy's letter from him.
“The court also sought arguments on the letter submitted by the accused regarding his immunity,” the APG said.
Carmela Conroy, Principal Officer of the US Consulate in Lahore, was present in the court along with three other officials.
The APG said the jail had two courtrooms.
Talking to journalists outside the jail, Advocate Asad Manzoor Butt, the counsel for complainants Imran Haidar and Waseem Shamshad, said the court had mentioned in interim orders that arguments on Davis's immunity were likely at the next hearing. “It has also become part of the court proceedings that the accused refused to formally receive the challan,” he said.
Journalists gathered outside the jail were not allowed to cover the proceedings because of security arrangements.
Only the officials of the US consulate, lawyers, prosecutors and court staff were allowed to enter the jail. AFP adds: The alleged CIA contractor, who claimed he acted in self-defence when he shot the men in a busy Lahore street last month, was handcuffed during the hearing which was guarded by more than 300 armed police officials in and around the prison, the prosecutor said.
A separate legal process to determine the diplomatic immunity issues returns to the Lahore High Court on March 14.
Additional Prosecutor General Samad has said the immunity case would not affect the murder charge hearing, unless the LHC barred them from proceeding.
The complainants' lawyer said: “We have also received copies of the charge sheet. We will pursue this case as we want Davis to be punished for his act. We believe he does not enjoy immunity.”
About 2,000 people demonstrated in the city later, rejecting immunity for Davis and demanding justice in the murder case. The rally, organised by the Jamaat-i-Islami, was attended by relatives of the three Pakistanis killed in the incident.