Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade who was arrested by the US State Department and strip and cavity searched.

US govt evacuated maid, husband and kid before arresting Devyani Khobragade

Dec 19 • Human Rights, Indo-US relations, International, News, Politics, USA • 931 Views • No Comments Bureau with inputs from PTI | Thursday, December 19th, 2013

NEW DELHI: In direct defiance of a Delhi High Court non-bailable warrant, and requests from the Indian embassy and the Ministry of External Affairs, the US offered the maid Sangeeta Richards a visa in June-July – ever since she went missing.Then the US embassy in Delhi issued T-visas to her husband Phillip and kid who left Delhi for the US two days before Devyani Khobragade was arrested. This was a pre-planned exercise which took months of planning. The maid’s lawyer who contacted Devyani Khobragade a few months ago had demanded a huge compensation. When Devyani refused and filed a complaint in the Delhi High court, the maid sought asylum in the US on grounds of exploitation and was granted a US visa as a state witness under the witness protection programme of the US.

India on Thursday demanded that the case against its senior diplomat Devyani Khobragade, arrested and strip-searched in New York on charges of visa fraud, should be dropped unconditionally. Ministry of external affairs says, “It needs to be asked what right a foreign govt has to evacuate our citizens from India while cases are pending against them on Indian soil.”
In a statement that was issued in response to a media query, the Indian embassy in Washington has said that along with the Ministry of External Affairs, it took up the matter of Khobragade’s domestic assistant Sangeeta Richard with the US State Department and the US embassy in New Delhi.

The US, however, did not respond.

The statement added that the Indian embassy had asked for US’ assistance in tracing Richard, action against her for blackmailing the Indian diplomat, assistance in repatriating her and arresting her for robbing cash, a mobile phone and documents from the Indian diplomat.  Non-bailable warrants were issued against her by the Delhi High Court and a criminal complaint was filed against the maid six months ago – all this was ignored by the US State Department.

The Ministry of External Affairs, in a statement, today said that there was only one victim in the diplomat case and that was Devyani Khobragade – a serving Indian diplomat on mission in the United States.

In a strongly-worded statement, the MEA said there were “no courtesies” in the treatment that was meted out to the diplomat, under the normal definition of that word in the English language.

The ministry further said in response to US Attorney Preet Bharara, “It needs to be asked what right a foreign government has to ‘evacuate’ Indian citizens from India while cases are pending against them in Indian legal system.”

“The statement (of Preet Bharara) underlines the compulsion that is felt by the Manhattan US Attorney’s office “to make sure that victims, witnesses and their families are safe and secure while cases are pending.”

“This statement is one more attempt at a post facto rationalisation for an action that should never have taken place in the first instance.”

External affairs minister Salman Khurshid said he had received a call from his American counterpart John Kerry last night but he was not available at that time to take it and that is the reason the US secretary of state talked to the national security advisor.

“I was not available when John Kerry called. We are trying to lock a time for a call this evening or may be tomorrow. Kerry is in the Philippines and there is a huge time difference,” he said.

Though Khurshid said he was not available to take Kerry’s call, speculation is that the call was not taken by the minister to show India’s unhappiness over the case against its diplomat and the way she was treated.

Noting that the case (against Khobragade) does not “deserve to be pursued” and should be withdrawn unconditionally, he said, “Our relationship has a lot of investment, it is an irreversible matter and we have to deal with it sensibly,” The minister said.

Kerry had last night called up national security advisor Shivshankar Menon and expressed regret over the treatment meted out to Khobragade.

A 1999-batch IFS officer, Khobragade was arrested on December 12 on visa fraud charges as she was dropping her daughter to school and released on a USD 250,000 bond only after pleading not guilty in court.

The ill-treatment of its diplomat evoked a sharp reaction from India which initiated a slew of steps to downgrade the privileges enjoyed by the US diplomats and their families including withdrawing airport passes and stopping import clearances.

The minister, who refused to comment on federal prosecutor Preet Bharara’s statement defending the arrest and strip-search of Khobragade, said he would not react to an individual’s opinion.

Khurshid asserted, “This is not a case that deserves treating her like a common criminal…Our responsibility is to ensure dignity of the officer is preserved. We are not putting any terms except humane and responsible response to something of concern to us.”

with inputs from PTI

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