Indian diplomat says broke down during invasive US body probe

Last Updated 18 December 2013, 13:10 IST

Senior Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, arrested in New York on charges of visa fraud, broke down many times after being subjected to "repeated" handcuffing, stripping, cavity searches and swabbing while being jailed with common criminals and drug addicts.

The 39-year-old deputy Consul General in New York, who was arrested and handcuffed in public while dropping her daughter to school on Thursday, in an email to her headquarters here said she stressed to arresting authorities that she had diplomatic immunity but was still subjected to repeated searches.

"I must admit that I broke down many times as the indignities of repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches, swabbing, in a hold-up with common criminals and drug addicts were all being imposed upon me despite my incessant assertions of immunity," the email said, according to a source privy to the information.

"I got the strength to regain composure and remain dignified thinking that I must represent all of my colleagues and my country with confidence and pride," the email said.

The source said, in the email, Khobragade called on the Indian government to ensure her safety and that of her children while also preserving the dignity of the country's diplomatic service which was "unquestionably under siege".

The arrest and the treatment meted out to the senior Indian diplomat has snow-balled into a major diplomatic row between the US and India.

Under intense pressure from India over its handling of Khobragade's arrest, the US has said it is "looking into" the facts of the case, even as US Marshals today admitted that she had been strip searched as part of "standard procedures".

"We understand that this is a sensitive issue for many in India. Accordingly, we are looking into the intake procedures surrounding this arrest to ensure that all appropriate procedures were followed and every opportunity for courtesy was extended," State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said in Washington.

Her statement came after India took a series of steps in retaliation to Khobragade's arrest and ill-treatment.

"While this is a law enforcement issue and will need to be worked through standard procedures and official law enforcement channels, we will continue to work this issue with India in the spirit of partnership and cooperation that marks our broad bilateral relationship," Harf said as the US went into damage control mode following India's tough stand.

A 1999 batch IFS officer, Khobragade, India's Deputy Consul General in New York, was arrested on December 12 by the State Department's diplomatic security bureau, and then handed over to the US Marshals Service (USMS).

Khobragade was taken into custody as she was dropping her daughter to school before being released on a USD 250,000 bond after pleading not guilty in court.

(Published 18 December 2013, 13:10 IST)

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