RE-BLOGGED FROM: American Who Worked for C.I.A. Freed in Pakistan
LAHORE, Pakistan — An American working as a contractor for the C.I.A. who had been jailed for the killing of two Pakistanis on a crowded Lahore street was freed on Wednesday and immediately flown out of the country, removing a major irritant in relations between the United States and Pakistan.
The case of Raymond A. Davis, 36, who shot dead two Pakistanis who he said tried to rob him on a motorbike in broad daylight, ignited a furor here and became a focal point of resentment among Pakistanis who say the growing American security contingent here — some of them covert operatives — roam the country with relative impunity.
At the time of his arrest, Pakistani police said Mr. Davis was carrying a Glock handgun, a flashlight that attached to a headband and a pocket telescope. American officials initially refused to specify what kind of work Mr. Davis was involved in.
After a British newspaper reported his ties to the C.I.A., however, they confirmed that Mr. Davis, a retired Special Forces soldier, was part of a covert, C.I.A.-led team that collected intelligence and conducted surveillance on militant groups deep inside the country.
All along, American officials insisted that Mr. Davis had diplomatic immunity and should turned over to the embassy and freed. Pakistani officials said the case should work its way through the country’s notoriously unpredictable courts.
On Wednesday, in a six hour session at the jail where Mr. Davis was held, the families of the victims dropped the prosecution in return for compensation, which Pakistani officials and lawyers for the families said amounted to about $2.3 million.
Shortly after his release, Mr. Davis was flown to Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was to undergo a medical examination and be interviewed by American officials.
In remarks to reporters in Cairo, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton thanked Pakistani officials and the families of the two men for agreeing to release Mr. Davis. “We appreciate the actions they took that enabled Mr. Davis to leave Pakistan and head back home,” she said.
Asked about reports of compensation, she replied, “The United States did not pay any compensation.” Asked if someone else paid compensation at the United States request, she repeated that and said you should ask the families and the Pakistani government.
The Pakistani government seems to have intervened in the last few days to take charge of the victims’ families and arrange the compensation agreement before Wednesday’s court hearing, when an indictment was looming. A lawyer attached to the Supreme Court in Islamabad, Raja Irshad Kiyani, said he was engaged by the families just two days ago to negotiate the agreement for them and represent them in court.
At the same time, the lawyer who had been representing the families until then, Asad Manzoor Butt, could no longer reach the families by phone. When he arrived with a colleague to attend the hearing at the jail Wednesday morning, he said, he was held in a room for four hours and not permitted to enter the courtroom, or meet with his clients.
Meanwhile, Mr. Irshad arrived from Islamabad just in time, as the court judge was beginning proceedings to indict Mr. Davis, and presented the judge with a signed agreement under which both families accepted the payment of what is known here as “blood money” and pardoned Mr. Davis. Even his defense counsel, Zahid Hussein Bukhari, was not expecting it. “It was a surprise for me,” Mr. Bukhari said later.
Nineteen family members who represent the legal heirs of the two dead men attended the court hearing and each answered that they would pardon Mr. Davis and confirmed that they had already received their share of the blood money, he said. “The families wanted this and they gave their statements voluntarily,” he said.
Mr. Irshad said in an interview afterward that he had had no dealings with American officials and that the Pakistani government had paid the compensation to the families in Lahore.
It remains unclear whether the families were coerced into accepting the deal, but the government clearly maneuvered to separate them from Mr. Butt, and the religious parties, which have been demonstrating against the release of Mr. Davis. Mr. Butt said he had offered his services to the families gratis at the request of members of the religious party, Jamaat-e-Islami.
The judge accepted the documents presented by Mr. Irshad and said that since the families had accepted this solution the state had no case against Mr. Davis regarding the killing of the two men.
He did however find Mr. Davis guilty of possession of an unlicensed weapon and gave him a three-month sentence and fined him the equivalent of about $350. The sentence was immediately commuted to time served and he ordered Mr. Davis to be released, Mr. Bukhari said. “I think justice has been done,” Mr. Bukhari said.
The American Consul General for Lahore was present for the proceedings, as was Mr. Davis who was sitting on a bench inside an iron bar cage, his hands cuffed in front of him, the lawyers said. A line of policemen stood in front of the cage to block to prevent Mr. Davis and the families seeing each other, Mr. Bukhari, Mr. Davis’s defense counsel, said.
The families, which included women and children, were emotional and wept each time they heard the names of the deceased read out but there was no interaction between them and Mr. Davis, he said.
The families could not be found Wednesday evening. Their houses were locked up and empty, local television channels reported, and none of the members of the family were responding to phone calls.
The “blood money” agreement is an accepted part of Islamic Law in Pakistan and early reactions to the news of Mr. Davis’s release were muted. Several dozen demonstrators tussled with police at barricades near the American consulate in Lahore Wednesday evening in protest at the release of Mr. Davis.
Mr. Davis may have narrowly escaped and long and difficult trial. By his own account Mr. Davis admits he killed the men and says he did it in self defense. He was driving in the city, familiarizing himself with the city and the way to CooCoo’s restaurant on Jan. 27 when two men on a motorbike pulled up beside and then in front of him at an intersection.
The one riding on the back “cocked his pistol and began to point it at me,” Mr. Davis’s handwritten statement says according to an official involved in the case. “I shot in self defense,” Mr. Davis wrote.
He fired ten bullets from his gun, five into each of the motorcyclists, killing one immediately and mortally wounding the other, the investigation summary states, which interviews 47 witnesses, including two traffic wardens who saw the incident and helped detain Mr. Davis.
The two motorcyclists, Faizan Haider, 22, and Muhammad Faheem, 17, were both carrying loaded pistols, although neither were cocked, according to the police investigation.
It requested that he be charged with two counts of murder in view of the large number of witnesses, the fact that the motorcyclists had not cocked their weapons, and that Mr. Davis had not sought to disable them by wounding them but had instead used what the investigation concluded was excessive force.
Religious parties and anti-American groups, which have been demanding the death sentence for Mr. Davis, are expected to continue to press the government on the death of a third man, who was knocked from his motorcycle by a United States consulate car that was rushing to the rescue of Mr. Davis at the time of the killings.