Raymond Davis walks free


LAHORE – A simmering diplomatic standoff between Pakistan and the United States, which stretched the allies’ already strained relations to near breaking point, ended on Wednesday as US national Raymond Davis was acquitted of two murder charges mere hours after his indictment when the victims’ families dropped charges against him in exchange for “blood money”.
Additional District and Sessions Judge Muhammad Yousaf Aoujla acquitted Davis of the double murder charges in a hearing at Kot Lakhpat Jail, where Davis was being held for the murder of two young men named Faizan Haider and Fahim in Lahore on January 27, an incident that triggered a wave of anti-American sentiment and a full-blown diplomatic crisis.
The families of the two victims appeared in court on Wednesday and stated that they had pardoned Davis and did not want to press charges against the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) contractor, in exchange for “blood money”. The court recorded the statement of each family member individually, all of whom admitted to pardoning the accused in exchange for “blood money”.
All signed affidavits to that effect and the court released Davis and confirmed the deal. Sources said that the families of the slain men received Rs 200 million in the deal that brought a swift end to over a month of uncertainty vis-a-vis Davis’ fate amid diplomatic wrangling that extended to the highest echelons of both the governments.
US President Barack Obama had also urged the Pakistan government to let Davis go because “he was a diplomat and enjoyed immunity”, a claim that erstwhile Foreign Affairs minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi lost his job for denying categorically. The court also acquitted Davis of another charge of carrying an unlicenced weapon.
Davis was on bail in this case. The court, considering the 49 days in which Davis was kept in confinement as imprisonment, fined the US national Rs 20,000. Davis was released when he paid the fine. However, lawyer Asad Manzoor Butt, who had been representing the deceased Faizan Haider and Fahim’s families in the case, claimed that no proceedings were held on Wednesday and prison officials kept him and his clients inside the jail for four hours.
Butt told reporters outside Kot Lakhpat jail that the families of both victims were forced to accept the “blood money” and sign papers in this regard. He also alleged that security agencies had detained the victims’ families since Tuesday night and he had no contact with them. On the other hand, official sources told Pakistan Today that the victims’ families had let Butt go and employed two new lawyers of the Supreme Court, namely Raja Irshad and Shabbir Hussain, who filed their powers of attorney on Wednesday and carried out the process of dropping charges against Raymond Davis.
The victims’ families, accompanied by US embassy and consulate representatives and their new counsels, left Kot Lakhpat Jail in a convoy of vehicles as soon as the trial finished. A US official who wished to remain unnamed said Davis was flown out of Pakistan soon after his acquittal. The identity of the victims has been questioned from the outset, with some media reports saying the men worked for the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, and that they might have been known to Davis. Other reports suggested they attempted to rob Davis, tailing him on motorbikes along a congested city road.