Sat, Mar 05, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Lawyer says ‘blood money’ best way to free US agent

COMPENSATION:Islamist parties are reportedly pressuring the families of the Pakistanis allegedly killed by a CIA contractor not to accept any money

AP, ISLAMABAD

The payment of “blood money” to the heirs of the two men allegedly killed by an American CIA contractor in Pakistan is the best way to free him, his lawyer said yesterday.

The remarks by Zahid Bokhari were the clearest indication yet that the US believes that paying compensation may play a role in getting Raymond Allen Davis out of jail and defusing a crisis that has exposed the fragility of ties between Pakistan and the US.

However, it remains unclear how, or if, this will work.

Relatives of the two victims and a third man killed by a US vehicle rushing to the scene said this week they were not interested in receiving money from the US. They also said US officials had not contacted them in any capacity.

Davis says he acted in self-defense, while the US insists he has diplomatic immunity and should never have been detained.

Pakistan’s weak government has yet to say whether Davis has immunity, apparently paralyzed in the face of media outrage and vocal protests by Islamist parties.

Bokhari said the 36-year-old Virginia native would be charged with murder at the next court hearing on Tuesday in Lahore.

Asked whether the payment of “blood money” to the families, sanctioned under Pakistani law and a common occurrence here, was a good way out of the crisis, Bokhari said: “That is the best way, not just a good way.”

He said US consular officials would handle any such effort.

Islamist political parties, relishing the difficult situation the US finds itself in, are pressuring the families not to accept any money. One of the them, Jamat Islami, says it may announce a public cash appeal for them.

The US embassy has not given details on what it is doing to resolve the crisis, other than say it is working with the Pakistani government.

Bokhari said the court was “in a hurry and under public pressure” to charge Davis, adding that the Lahore High Court is reviewing petitions on whether he has immunity. He said that if the high court ruled he was immune, he anticipated Davis would walk free.

Some US congressional members, Democrats and Republicans alike, are threatening to cut off development funds to Pakistan if Davis is kept much longer in jail. US President Barack Obama, seeking to enlist Pakistan’s support in helping it fight the Taliban in Afghanistan, has authorized the release of US$7.5 billion in aid over five years to shore up the country.

The case has inflamed tensions between the CIA and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

Their cooperation is seen as vital in tackling al-Qaeda in Pakistan.

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