US official formally charged with murder

US official formally charged with murder

Rejecting Raymond Davis' claim that he shot two men in self-defence, the prosecution filed a 'challan' (chargesheet) in the court of a district and sessions judge, formally charging him with murder of two Pakistanis in Lahore.

Officials told the media that the chargesheet was based on forensic reports, the statement of Davis and the investigation conducted by police. They said the charges were based on witnesses who had stated that the American pursued the two men and fired at them. The next hearing in Davis' case is scheduled for February 25.

The move came as a top US official said that the American administration will submit a petition to the Lahore court on Thursday, certifying that Davis has diplomatic immunity and seeking his release. "On Thursday, we will present a petition to the court to certify that he has diplomatic immunity and that he should be released," P J Crowley, State Department spokesman told reporters in Washington.

Lahore police chief Aslam Tareen had told the media on February 11 that investigators had found no evidence to support Davis' contention that he had acted in self-defence.
He described the killing of the two men by Davis as an act of "intentional and cold-blooded murder".

Davis was arrested on January 27 after he shot and killed the two armed men in a busy area of Lahore. He claimed he had opened fire as the two men were trying to rob him.
Subsequent reports have suggested that the two men were operatives of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency who were assigned to tail Davis.

The episode has taken US-Pakistan ties to a new low after Pakistani leaders rejected repeated American demands for Davis to be freed. The Pakistan government has insisted that Davis' case will be decided in court according to the country's law.

The US, on the other hand, had stepped up diplomatic pressure, and has decided to go ahead with a crucial meeting on Afghanistan, without Pakistan. The American official is currently being held in Lahore's Kot Lakhpat Jail where his security has been stepped up because of fears that he might be bumped off. A senior Pakistani police official yesterday reviewed security arrangements in and around the jail.

Officials said Davis is being kept in a high-security barrack guarded by an armed contingent of wardens and law enforcing personnel.

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