US attorney justifies Devyani arrest
As the relation between India and the US continues to remain under strain over the arrest and alleged ill-treatment of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, US Attorney Preet Bharara has made a long statement justifying the arrest.
In an unusual move, Bharara made his statement on Wednesday where he defended the arrest and strip-search of Khobragade held on visa fraud charges and said she was treated very well, even given coffee and offered food while detained.
"First, Ms. Khobragade was charged based on conduct, as is alleged in the Complaint, that shows she clearly tried to evade U.S. law designed to protect from exploitation the domestic employees of diplomats and consular officers. Not only did she try to evade the law, but as further alleged, she caused the victim and her spouse to attest to false documents and be a part of her scheme to lie to U.S. government officials," Bharara stated.
Countering the outrage in India, he said, "One wonders even more pointedly whether any government would not take action regarding that alleged conduct where the purpose of the scheme was to unfairly treat a domestic worker in ways that violate the law. And one wonders why there is so much outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian national accused of perpetrating these acts, but precious little outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian victim and her spouse?"
"Second, as the alleged conduct of Ms. Khobragade makes clear, there can be no plausible claim that this case was somehow unexpected or an injustice. Indeed, the law is clearly set forth on the State Department website. Further, there have been other public cases in the United States involving other countries, and some involving India, where the mistreatment of domestic workers by diplomats or consular officers was charged criminally, and there have been civil suits as well," he said.
The US attorney has also accused Khobragade of lying on the visa application for an Indian national who worked at her home, paying her less than minimum wages and forcing her to work for more than 40 hours a week.
He said that Khobragade was provided courtesies most Americans wouldn't get.
"I will address these issues based on the facts as I understand them. Ms. Khobragade was accorded courtesies well beyond what other defendants, most of whom are American citizens, are accorded. She was not, as has been incorrectly reported, arrested in front of her children," he claimed.
As against reports of her being handcuffed in public view and that she was allegedly stripped and searched at a police station in New York, Bharara claimed that the procedure was was carried in "discreet way."
"The agents arrested her in the most discreet way possible, and unlike most defendants, she was not then handcuffed or restrained. In fact, the arresting officers did not even seize her phone as they normally would have. Instead, they offered her the opportunity to make numerous calls to arrange personal matters and contact whomever she needed, including allowing her to arrange for child care," his statement said.
"Because it was cold outside, the agents let her make those calls from their car and even brought her coffee and offered to get her food. It is true that she was fully searched by a female Deputy Marshal -- in a private setting -- when she was brought into the U.S. Marshals' custody, but this is standard practice for every defendant, rich or poor, American or not, in order to make sure that no prisoner keeps anything on his person that could harm anyone, including himself. This is in the interests of everyone's safety," it said.
Reacting to Bharara's statement, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid told NDTV channel on Thursday that there is no need to take Preet Bharara or his comments seriously.
"As far as we are concerned, we deal not with Preet Bharara but with the State department," said Khurshid who on Tuesday vowed to bring the Indian diplomat back.
He said it is better to "just stick to Secretary Kerry's point of view - he represents the President's policy vis-a-vis India."
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry will speak to Salman Khurshid on Thursday over the arrest of Khobragade.
"I will talk to Kerry on the issue on Thursday evening. This matter has to be resolved," said Khurshid.
Kerry on Wednesday called National Security Advisor (NSA) Shivshankar Menon to discuss the arrest of Indian Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade in New York on visa fraud charges.
"Today Secretary Kerry called Indian National Security Advisor Menon to discuss the December 12th arrest of Deputy Consul General Khobragade," said a press statement issued by US state department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf on Wednesday.
"The Secretary understands very deeply the importance of enforcing our laws and protecting victims, and, like all officials in positions of responsibility inside the U.S. Government, expects that laws will be followed by everyone here in our country.
"It is also particularly important to Secretary Kerry that foreign diplomats serving in the United States are accorded respect and dignity just as we expect our own diplomats should receive overseas," said Harf.
"As a father of two daughters about the same age as Devyani Khobragade, the Secretary empathizes with the sensitivities we are hearing from India about the events that unfolded after Ms. Khobragade's arrest, and in his conversation with National Security Advisor Menon he expressed his regret, as well as his concern that we not allow this unfortunate public issue to hurt our close and vital relationship with India," said the spokesperson.
According to reports, Devyani Khobragade, who was arrested for alleged visa fraud and handcuffed in public view last week, was allegedly stripped and searched at a police station in New York.
She was also allegedly kept in a lockup with common criminals and drug addicts.
The U.S. Department of State has said Devyani Khobragade does not enjoy immunity from US laws.
"Under the Vienna convention on consular relations, the Indian Deputy Consul General enjoys immunity from the jurisdiction of US courts only with respect to acts performed in the exercise of consular functions," said a spokesperson of the U.S. Department of State.
"We are handling this incident through law enforcement channels. We have a long-standing partnership with India, and we expect that that partnership will continue," the spokesperson said.
(Posted on 19-12-2013)