Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade was treated very well, Preet Bharara says : worldleaks
A federal prosecutor has guessed into the tense relationship between the US and India, defending the arrest and strip-search of an Indian diplomat held on visa charges and saying she was handled very well, even given coffee and offered food while delayed.
US attorney Preet Bharara, who made the highly unusual move of publishing a lengthy statement addressing the arrest and issues not in a criminal complaint, said that diplomat Devyani Khobragade was afford courtesies most Americans wouldn’t get, such as being allowed to make phone calls for two hours to arrange child care and sort out personal matters, after she was discretely arrested by US department of state agents outside her children’s Manhattan school.
Khobragade was arrested last week on charges she lied on a visa application about how much she paid her housekeeper, an Indian national. Prosecutors say the maid received less than $3 per hour for her work.
Bharara said Khobragade, who has declared not guilty, wasn’t handcuffed, restrained or arrested in front of her children. And he said that while she was “fully searched” in private by a female deputy marshal, the move was a standard safety practice all defendants undergo.
Khobragade has been transferred to India‘s mission to the United Nations, according to her lawyer and a former colleague. It’s unclear how such a move might affect her immunity from prosecution, and a UN spokesman said it hadn’t received a essential transfer request from her Wednesday evening.
News that Khobragade was strip-searched has chilled US-Indian relations, and US secretary of state John Kerry called a top Indian official to express his regret over what happened. India has overturned privileges for US diplomats in protest.
Bharara, who was born in India but moved with his family to New Jersey, opposed his case.
“One wonders whether any government would not take action about false documents being submitted to it in order to bring immigrants into the country,” he said in the statement. “And one wonders why there is so much outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian national accused of perpetrating these acts, but precious little outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian victim and her spouse?”
Khobragade, who was India’s deputy consul general in New York, would face a maximum sentence of 10 years for visa fraud and five years for making a false resolution if convicted.
She has said she has full diplomatic immunity. The department of state disputes that, saying hers is more limited to acts performed in the exercise of consular functions. Her work status late Wednesday was unclear.
Indian consulate spokesman Venkatasamy Perumal said Khobragade was transferred on Tuesday to India’s UN mission, but he refused to comment further, and requests for comment to the UN mission’s first secretary were not immediately returned.
Department of state deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said that when such a transfer request is made to the United Nations, the UN secretariat would inform the department of state. It then would have to be reviewed by appropriate authorities in both places.
Khobragade’s lawyer, Daniel Arshack, said he didn’t know what she would be doing at the UN mission, but “I fully expect her to stay in the US.”
Khobragade has said US authorities subjected her to a strip-search, cavity search and DNA swabbing following her arrest.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has reported her treatment as “deplorable.”
In India, the fear of public humiliation resonates strongly, and heavy-handed treatment by the police is normally reserved for the poor. For an educated, middle-class woman to face public arrest and a strip-search is almost unimaginable, except in the most brutal crimes.
Harf, the department of state spokeswoman, said Kerry called India’s national security adviser Shivshankar Menon, who has slammed the diplomat’s treatment as “despicable and barbaric.”
In an email published in Indian media on Wednesday, Khobragade said she was treated like a common criminal.
“I broke down many times as the indignities of repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches, swabbing, in a holdup with common criminals and drug addicts were all being inflicted upon me despite my incessant assertions of immunity,” she wrote.
Khobragade was arrested by the department of state’s diplomatic security team and then handed over to US marshals in New York.
The US Marshals Service confirmed on Tuesday that it had strip-searched Khobragade and placed her in a cell with other female defendants. It described the measures as “standard arrestee intake procedures.” It could not immediately confirm whether she underwent a cavity search.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said “this isolated episode is not indicative of the close and mutually respectful ties” that the US and India share.
India revenged against US diplomats with measures that include revoking diplomat ID cards that brought certain privileges, demanding to know the salaries paid to Indian staff in US embassy households and withdrawing import licenses that allowed the commissary at the US embassy to import alcohol and food.
On Wednesday, dozens of people protested outside the US embassy, saying Khobragade’s treatment was an insult to Indian women.
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