US defends treatment of Indian diplomat

Indians shout slogans near the US Embassy in New Delhi to protest against the alleged mistreatment of New York based Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, Wednesday, December 18, 2013.

The US federal prosecutor in Manhattan, New York, defended on Wednesday the arrest and strip-searching of a female Indian diplomat, amid growing diplomatic tensions between Washington and New Delhi over the issue.

Preet Bharara, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, made the defense after an uproar in India triggered by the mistreatment of Devyani Khobragade, India’s 39-year-old deputy consul general charged with underpaying her nanny.

“Ms. Khobragade was accorded courtesies well beyond what other defendants, most of whom are American citizens, are accorded,” Bharara said, adding that his sole motivation was to “hold accountable anyone who breaks the law – no matter what their societal status and no matter how powerful, rich or connected they are.”

He acknowledged that Khobragade had been “fully searched” by a female deputy marshal after her arrest. “This is standard practice for every defendant, rich or poor, American or not,” said Bharara, who was born in India, raised in New Jersey and has built a reputation as “The Sheriff of Wall Street” for his prosecution of insider trading cases.

India has been furious about what it considers the degrading treatment of a senior diplomat. In retaliation, Indian officials removed security barriers at the US Embassy in New Delhi on Tuesday.

A senior Indian government source has said the interrogation included a cavity search. A strip search can include a “visual inspection” of body cavities, including the nose, mouth, genitals and anus, without intrusion.

Khobragade wrote an email for her colleagues about the “repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches, swabbing” and being detained in a holding cell with petty criminals, despite her “incessant assertions of immunity.”

While common in the United States, jail strip searches have prompted legal challenges from civil liberties groups concerned that the practice is degrading and unnecessary.

AHT/ARA

Source: Press TV