US envoy summoned over diplomat’s arrest

December 14, 2013 - 5:45:37 am

NEW DELHI: India summoned yesterday the US ambassador to New Delhi to protest the “humiliating” arrest of a top diplomat while dropping her children at school in New York, the foreign ministry said.

Ambassador Nancy Powell was summoned to a meeting with Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, the day after the detention of deputy consul general Devyani Khobragade (pictured), ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said.

“We are shocked and appalled at the way she had been humiliated and this will be taken up forcefully with the US,” said Akbaruddin. “She was pursuing her duties and is entitled to courtesies of a serving diplomat.

“This kind of behaviour against the Indian diplomat, a young woman with two children is entirely unacceptable.”

Indian media reports said that the New York-based Khobragade was arrested and handcuffed in public for allegedly lying on the US visa application for an Indian national who worked for her as a domestic help.

The Indian embassy in Washington said the detention was based on “allegations raised by the officer’s former India-based domestic assistant”.

The domestic worker had “absconded” from her employer in June and was already the subject of an injunction issued by the High Court in Delhi, the embassy added in a statement on its website.

“The legal aspect of it is separate and there is no justification for what has happened to the young woman,” added Akbaruddin at a briefing with reporters in New Delhi.

In response to a question that the diplomat has been accused of forging a visa or other documents, the spokesman said that did not justify Khobragade’s treatment.

“It still doesn’t absolve the US authorities of traumatising and humiliating the Indian diplomat who was doing her duties in the US,” Akbaruddin said. “We are confident that we will be able to justify our stand on this issue,” he added.

In its statement, the embassy said the US authorities had already been made aware of the injunction from the Delhi court and had been asked to “facilitate the service of an arrest warrant” against the domestic worker.

“The US side have been urged to resolve the matter with due sensitivity, taking into account the existing court case in India that has already been brought to their attention by the government of India, and the diplomatic status of the officer concerned,” it said.

While Khobragade (39) is the Deputy Consul General at the Consulate General of India here, significantly she was serving as the acting Consul General at the time of her arrest. She was released on a $250,000 bond after she pleaded not guilty in a court.

She was charged with one count of visa fraud and one count of making false statements, which carry maximum sentences of 10 years and five years in prison, respectively.

 The Indian Embassy in Washington released a statement saying it had “immediately conveyed its strong concern” to the US Government over the action taken against Khobragade.

Khobragade, mother of two young daughters and a Chevening scholar, was taken into custody and produced before US Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman late in the afternoon for an arraignment hearing. Wearing a purple sweater and dress, Khobragade appeared composed during the hearing but looked pale and stressed.

 The judge read out Khobragade her rights and the charges against her. Khobragade did not speak during the hearing except to say that she agrees with the terms and conditions of the bail. The next hearing has been set for January 13.

Khobragade joined the Consulate last year and has previously been posted in Germany, Italy and Pakistan. The arrest sent shock waves among the Indian diplomatic corps here with some officers saying it is unprecedented and and inappropriate for a diplomat to be arrested.Agencies

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