The spokesperson for Pakistan's ruling party invoked the Vienna Convention and diplomatic immunity for the first time today as a possible avenue for the U.S. to secure the release of Raymond Davis, the American diplomat who allegedly gunned down two Pakistani men last month.
Fauzia Wahab, a spokesperson for the Pakistan People Party, said that no diplomat can be kept in captivity and that Davis has an official diplomatic visa. The U.S. State Department has been demanding Davis' release based on the same points since the Jan. 27 shooting incident, but today marks the first time a prominent Pakistani official publicly backed the international agreement in Davis' case.
Wahab's comments come just a day after the Taliban issued a threat on the lives of anyone involved in Davis' release.
"Whether he is a judge, police, lawyer, army, policy maker or a politician, we will target him. We will kill him," a Taliban spokesman told The Associated Press Sunday.
Davis, 36, was arrested after allegedly shooting and killing two men on the streets of Lahore, Pakistan, who the U.S. State Department said were trying to rob him. A third Pakistani man was struck and killed by a vehicle that was reportedly racing to Davis' aid. U.S. officials have repeatedly declined to answer questions about Davis' precise job in Pakistan, saying only he was a "member of the administrative and technical staff" of the Islamabad embassy and traveled on a diplomatic passport. Public records show Davis has experience with the U.S. Special Forces and runs a small security company.
Despite holding a diplomatic passport, Davis has been held in Lahore since the incident and Lahore's police chief Friday rejected the idea he had acted in self-defense. The shooting was "intentional and cold-blooded murder," police chief Aslam Tareen said.
After the court's decision to detain Davis for an extended period Friday, Carmela Conroy, the U.S. Consul General in Lahore, said that the incident was a tragedy, and extended her sympathy to the family of the men killed, but said that Davis is "entitled to full immunity from prosecution" as a member of the U.S. Embassy staff in Islamabad.
"Under the rules, he should be freed immediately," said Conroy, who visited Davis in prison last week. She also said she regretted that authorities "did not consider ... eyewitness accounts and physical evidence" that indicated Davis acted in self defense.
Davis' continuing detention, his recent move to a prison from the police station, and the apparent impending murder charge could infuriate the United States. A senior U.S. official said that so long as Davis is detained, any major U.S.-Pakistan meeting would be dominated by a discussion about Davis -- making normal bilateral discussions right now difficult to impossible.
But the embassy in Islamabad rejected the claim made by Pakistani officials in an ABC news report that pressure to release Davis included a meeting between National Security Advisor Tom Donilon and Pakistan Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani in which Donilon threatened Haqqani with expulsion and the closure of U.S. consulates in Pakistan if Davis wasn't released last week.