Issa, lawmakers ask Pakistan to release U.S. embassy staffer

A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) met with Pakistan's president and prime minister this week and asked them to release a U.S. embassy staffer charged with killing two Pakistani nationals.

The diplomat, Raymond Davis, is accused of shooting and killing two Pakistani men who the U.S. says were attempting to rob him. Davis was based out of the embassy’s office in Lahore, Pakistan, and served as part of its technical administrative staff.  

Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, led the congressional delegation to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. Lawmakers met with military and government officials on a variety of issues, including the release of Davis, who remains in Pakistani custody.

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Democratic Reps. Stephen Lynch (Mass.) and Brian M. Higgins (N.Y.) and Republican Reps. Todd Platts (Pa.), Jason Chaffetz (Utah) and Raul L. Labrador (Idaho) joined Issa on the trip.

They met with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani separately and asked them to honor the Vienna Convention, which states that a diplomat can’t be arrested or detained by a foreign government.

“The Davis issue is something that had come up, and all that they ask is that they treat it in accordance with international law,” said Kurt Bardella, a spokesman for Issa. “And, obviously, international law recognizes immunity.”

The offices of Platts, Lynch and Higgins all confirmed that the lawmakers also discussed Davis’s release during their visit.

A Pakistani lawyer has filed a case against Davis under public interest laws that require him to stand trial in Pakistan and keep him from being released into U.S. custody.

A spokesman for the Pakistani president told a local newspaper, Dawn.com, that a local court would decide whether Davis should receive diplomatic immunity or not.

“It will be prudent to wait for the legal course to be completed,” said spokesman Farhatullah Babar after the CODEL’s meeting with the president.

The State Department has also asked for Davis’s release, with spokesman Philip Crowley telling reporters earlier this week that the diplomat acted in self-defense and that the two men were armed and approached him on motorcycles.   

“[Davis] had every reason to believe that the armed men meant him bodily harm,” said Crowley. “And minutes earlier the two men — who had criminal records — had robbed money and valuables at gunpoint from a Pakistani citizen in the same area.”

A Lahore judge reiterated the Pakistani president’s sentiments, saying the court will decide whether Davis receives diplomatic immunity.  

“I am restraining him [from being handed over to U.S. authorities],” Lahore High Court Chief Justice Ejaz Ahmed Chaudhry told Dawn.com. “Whether he has or does not have [diplomatic] immunity will be decided by the court.”

Lawmakers on the CODEL also discussed United States and Pakistan trade relations and the status of the war against terrorists in the Middle East region.