Invoking diplomatic immunity, the U.S. embassy on Saturday called for the “immediate release” of its “diplomat unlawfully detained by authorities in Lahore”. The demand came 48 hours after the U.S. embassy staffer was taken into police custody for gunning down two Pakistanis in “self-defense” at a traffic intersection in Lahore.

In its first elaborate statement on the killings that have added more strain to U.S.-Pakistan relations, the embassy did not disclose his name nor divulge details of his work profile except that he was assigned to the U. S. embassy in Islamabad. On Friday, a two-line statement from the embassy on the incident, had described him as a “staff member of the U.S. Consulate General in Lahore”.

According to the latest statement from the embassy, the “diplomat” has a U.S. diplomatic passport and a Pakistani visa valid till June 2010. Giving its version of the incident, the statement said: “On January 27, the diplomat acted in self-defence 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.”

Further, the embassy sought to point out that when detained, the American staffer identified himself 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,” the statement said.

Reiterating the value it attaches to relations with Pakistan, the embassy said it was committed to working closely with the Pakistani government to secure the immediate release of the diplomat, “as required under Pakistani and international law”. On Friday, U.S. Ambassador Cameron Munter had met Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir in this connection.

Responding to queries about the U.S. demand, the Foreign Office, in a statement, said the matter was sub judice and the legal process ought to be respected. Stating that the Foreign Ministry had no substantive comments to offer on the developments, the statement refers to the “diplomat” as a “U.S. functionary”.

Meanwhile, local media quoted Foreign Office sources as stating that there was no U.S. diplomat by the name of Raymond Davis — the name cited in the case of murder filed in a Lahore police station — in their records. As per their records, a person by that name had been issued a visa to work in the U.S. embassy in Islamabad as technician.

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