Raymond Davis released by Pakistani court (Third Lead)

March 16th, 2011 - 11:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad/Washington, March 16 (IANS) A Pakistani court Wednesday acquitted CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who killed two men in Lahore, after payment of blood money as compensation to relatives of the victims, Geo News reported. He is reported to have been flown out of the country.

A US Air Force plane carrying 12 men, perhaps including Davis, took off at 4.45 p.m. from Lahore airport for Afghanistan, sources told Geo News.

An additional sessions judge released Raymond Davis after the family members of the slain men appeared in the court and pardoned the US national after an agreement was reached between the two sides, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said.

“He has been released from jail and now it is up to him to leave the country whenever he wants,” the minister added.

Blood money, or “Diyat” is a provision under Islamic Sharia law in which compensation can be paid to relatives of those killed to secure a pardon, and is commonly used to resolve such cases in Pakistan.

Davis, 36, shot dead two Pakistanis on a motorcycle in Lahore Jan 27 following what he described as an attempted armed robbery. He claimed that he acted in self-defence.

A spokesman for the US embassy in Islamabad said he could not immediately confirm the report.

The Davis case had sparked protests in Pakistan, with religious groups angrily denouncing the American.

US authorities insisted Davis was protected by full diplomatic immunity, but the Pakistani government refused to back that claim and a decision on his status was Monday deferred by the Lahore High Court for criminal judges to decide.

Lawyers for the families of the two men shot dead in a busy Lahore street on January 27 said they had been held for four hours at the jail court where Davis was being tried on Wednesday, but had not been allowed to witness the proceedings.

Earlier Wednesday, Davis was indicted by a Pakistani court. The sessions judge charged Davis on two counts of murder at a hearing held at the Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore, Geo News reported.

According to The Washington Post, Davis was released from a Pakistani jail in Lahore after nearly two months in detention and was being flown to meet with US officials in Kabul.

US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter accompanied Davis on the flight, a US official said.

“There has been a plan in the works for the last three weeks,” the official said, adding that US officials had desperately worked to free Davis before a threatened murder trial began.

The official, who asked to remain anonymous, confirmed that so-called blood money had been paid to family members of the shooting victims, but did not disclose the amount.

The decision to free Davis has put an end to a high-stakes tense diplomatic stand-off between the US and Pakistan.

Davis was a member of a security team assigned to protect CIA operatives in Lahore collecting intelligence on groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant Islamist group tied to terrorist attacks against India and long backed by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency, the daily said.

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