We followed standard procedure: US officials

December 19, 2013 - 9:00:05 am

National flag flies over India’s consulate general building in New York yesterday.

NEW YORK: India reacted furiously to the arrest of a consular official in New York for alleged visa fraud and paying her housekeeper $3.31 an hour but US officials insist standard procedure was followed.

The US Marshals Office says it held Devyani Khobragade for just four hours last Thursday pending her first appearance in court.

“Khobragade was subject to the same search procedures as other US Marshals Service arrestees held within the general prisoner population in the Southern District of New York, which in this case was a strip-search,” its public affairs office said.

The following is an outline of what any person can expect from a brief spell in custody of the US Marshal Service:

BODY SEARCHES

Khobragade complained that she endured “repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches” after her arrest.

“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,” she said in the email published in the Times of India.

The US Marshal Service says it is authorised to conduct pat-down, in-custody, strip and digital cavity searches.

“Body searches require a professional, systematic, methodical, and consistent approach exhibited by a polite but firm demeanor. Persons to be searched should not be physically forced as long as they comply with commands,” it says on its website.

It said strip searches are authorized when there is “reasonable suspicion” that the prisoner may be carrying contraband or weapons, or is considered a security, escape, or suicide risk.

They are required to be done in private by an officer of the same sex, or a physician, physician’s assistant, or nurse. A witness of the same sex as the prisoner must be present.

“If the prisoner refuses to cooperate in removing any article of clothing or by otherwise impeding the deputy in the search, reasonable force may be used to complete the search,” it says.

CELLBLOCK OPERATIONS

Female prisoners are separated from adult male prisoners within the cellblock, or held in monitored and secure areas.

Anyone who is violent or shows signs of possible drug overdose, severe mental disorder or suicidal tendencies are to be segregated and closely observed, the Marshals Office says.

Prisoners are allowed visits by attorneys, court personnel or other people directed by the court.

If a prisoner is held during normal lunch or dinner hours, they are given meals although they are denied hot drinks.

Prisoners have their handcuffs removed when placed in cells

They are interviewed to gather personal, arrest, and prosecution information. All property in the possession of a prisoner inventoried and put into a secure container until given to the prisoner’s attorney, family member, or other representative.

IMMUNITY

In her email leaked to the media, Khobragade claimed she had diplomatic immunity.

The US State Department says that as a consular official, Khobragade is entitled to consular immunity that applies only to functions directly related to the duty of her job.

In New York in 2011, an Indian diplomat was accused of treating his domestic helper as a “slave” by forcing her to work long hours for $300 a month, confiscating her passport and making her sleep in a closet. India backed the diplomat and expressed disappointment over his treatment.AFP

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