Pakistan CIA shooter trial to go ahead
Lahore - A Pakistani court on Thursday said that the murder trial of a CIA contractor would go ahead, despite the insistence of the US government that he has diplomatic immunity.
The hearing in the murder case against Raymond Davis took place amid high security in Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore where he is being held, and was adjourned until March 8.
Davis has claimed he acted in self-defence when he shot dead two men in a busy Lahore street in January.
The issue of his claim to diplomatic immunity is pending before the Pakistani High Court which is due to rule on March 14.
"The court passed an order today saying that he [Davis] had failed to produce any legitimate document proving his diplomatic immunity," the lawyer representing the families of the two men shot by him, Asad Manzoor Butt, told AFP after a closed-door hearing.
"The judge rejected his [Davis's] immunity claim after a lot of debate," Butt said.
His lawyer pleaded that he could not be prosecuted by this court because of the diplomatic immunity issue was pending in Lahore High Court, Butt said.
"The judge replied that the Lahore High Court had not barred him to proceed on the murder trial," Butt said.
Zahid Bokhari, Davis's lawyer, told AFP the judge had ordered the trial to continue because for the past one-and-a-half months no document had been produced in the court related to Davis's immunity.
"We will see the detailed written order by the judge and then will be able to tell whether he had rejected the claim of diplomatic immunity or not," Bokhari said.
"We have tried to stop this trial and asked for some documents related to this case from the court," said Bokhari, who appeared for the first time on behalf of Davis.
At a previous hearing on February 25, Davis refused to sign the copy of the charge sheet, insisting that he be released and claiming that he enjoyed diplomatic immunity.
Meanwhile, Pakistani foreign secretary Salman Basir told reporters in Islamabad that it would be premature to conclude that the issue had damaged Pakistan-US relationship in any lasting sense.
"I think on the Davis issue, it is of course our responsibility to ensure that issues such as these do not cast a shadow on our bilateral relations," he said, adding: "I believe that is also the case with the State Department".
He said Pakistan was mindful of its international obligations as well as legal and constitutional responsibilities.
Revelations that Davis was a CIA contractor have heaped pressure on Pakistan's fragile government and further ramped up burning public mistrust of Washington.
A third Pakistani was struck down and killed by a US diplomatic vehicle that came to Davis's assistance. US officials denied Pakistan access to the vehicle and the occupants are widely believed to have left the country.
Police have said they recovered a Glock pistol, four loaded magazines, a GPS navigation system and a small telescope from Davis' car after the January 27 shooting.
Washington is pushing hard for Pakistan to free Davis, arguing that he has immunity and backing his claim that he acted in self-defence.
The United States postponed a round of high-level talks with Afghanistan and Pakistan following failed attempts to get Davis out, and US lawmakers threatened to cut payments to Pakistan unless he is freed.
Under international laws, embassy diplomats have full diplomatic immunity whereas consular officials are liable for detention in case of grave crimes.