Well, it took them a day or so to think it over, but the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad has finally issued a statement about the arrest of Raymond Allen Davis. Presumably they had consular access to Davis yesterday, and waited to get his account of his actions before coming out with the statement.
The official position is that Davis is entitled to diplomatic immunity from arrest. Reportedly, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry disagrees, although they have not yet responded to our embassy's statement with one of their own.
The embassy statement also claims that Davis was acting in self-defense, and it adds a new twist to substantiate that claim. It says the two Pakistanis Davis killed had robbed others at gun point a few minutes before in the same area.
Here's the statement:
U.S. Embassy Calls for Release of American Diplomat
January 29, 2011
Islamabad - The United States Embassy in Pakistan calls for the immediate release of a U.S. diplomat unlawfully detained by authorities in Lahore.
The diplomat, assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, has a U.S. diplomatic passport and Pakistani visa valid until June 2012.
On January 27, the diplomat acted in self-defense when confronted by two armed men on motorcycles. 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.
When detained, the U.S. diplomat identified himself to police as a diplomat and repeatedly requested immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Local police and senior authorities failed to observe their legal obligation to verify his status with either the U.S. Consulate General in Lahore or the U.S. 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.
We regret that this incident resulted in loss of life.
We greatly value the cooperation and partnership between Pakistan and the United States, which is vital to the interests of both countries. The U.S. Embassy is committed to working closely with the Pakistani government to secure the immediate release of the diplomat, as required under Pakistani and international law.
Pakistani news media are, indeed, reporting today that the two dead men had been on a crime spree minutes before they encountered Davis. Of course, Davis could not have known about that when he saw the two men park their motorcycle in front of his car, so he still bears the burden of showing he was in fear for his life when he opened fire on them. But this information certainly helps his case.
Meanwhile, though it was initially reported that the two deceased motorcyclists had no criminal record, the police registered FIRs [First Information Reports, which are complaints filed by Pakistani police when they receive information about the commission of a crime] by victims against them posthumously on Friday, police sources told The Express Tribune.
The complainants, Doctor Farzand and Sheharyar Malik, in a written application, state that the two had robbed them of their mobiles and cash just before the incident and were fleeing.
As evidence, the two have referred to phone logs of calls made to Rescue 1-5 about the incident right after it happened. The police say that two mobile phones were recovered from the deceased which matched the description of those the applicants had complained to 1-5 had been stolen.
However, the police had also shown the recovery of foreign currency from the deceased, which they say had also been looted. On the other hand, there is yet to be a complaint regarding the theft of foreign currency on the day of the incident.
In the FIR registered against Davis, the police have also included charges of carrying an illegal weapon – a Glock pistol and two magazines. The police also recovered a digital camera, a phone tracker with a charger.
-- snip --
Conversely, the police so far have no information about the other vehicle that came to rescue Davis and crushed a motorcyclist – Ibadullah – in the process. After killing the man, the vehicle fled from the scene. Davis did not disclose who was heading to his rescue, but did tell the police that, after the incident, he telephoned his Regional Security Officer who might have sent some officials for his rescue.
A police officer, on condition of anonymity, said that they had, through the Lahore Capital City Police Officer, sent a formal request to Pakistan’s foreign office to contact the US Consulate to identify those in the vehicle for their arrest.
Today's WaPo story on the embassy statement includes some new, unattributed, background about Davis and his employment in Pakistan.
Davis arrived in Pakistan in September 2009 as a "technical adviser" to the consulate in Lahore, according to sources who said his job was to assist in vetting visa applicants. His initial three-month diplomatic visa, listing his birth year as 1974 and a home address in Las Vegas, has been repeatedly extended at U.S. request since then.
The CIA has declined to comment on whether Davis worked for the agency, although Pakistani officials said they do not believe he is an intelligence agent. Under special budget provisions, the State Department has given diplomatic status to hundreds of temporary employees hired in recent years, some of them through contractors, to bolster the ranks of rapidly expanding embassies in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Vetting visa applicants? OK. Does Lahore even have visa services? I don't know. But it does have a new Public Diplomacy team, and my heart goes out to those poor people.
More to come.