Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for February, 2011

Newsline: Indians in Libya can seek help from other embassies

Indians fleeing strife-torn Libya can seek the help of other embassies if the Indian Embassy is far from where they are located, said minister for overseas Indian affairs and civil aviation Vayalar Ravi. Even if they move to other countries, the Indian government will make arrangements to bring them back home, the minister said. He said more flights would be deployed to bring back the Indians stranded in Libya. There would be one or two flights operating everyday. Since Benghazi airport in Libya is closed, Indians there are being brought to Alexandria by ships, from where they will be airlifted. “The government is concerned for the 80,000-odd Indians living in Libya. All arrangements have been made to repatriate them,” said Mr Ravi.



Newsline: Diplomat’s son seeks deportation

The son of a German diplomat who is serving two life sentences for a double murder is asking Gov. Bob McDonnell to recommend his parole and deportation, citing the absence of his DNA from biological tests conducted on the decades-old evidence in his case. In a letter to McDonnell, an attorney for Jens Soering asks the governor to consider a petition submitted last month that cites DNA tests on evidence retained before DNA testing was widely used that eliminate Soering as a contributor. Soering and his then-girlfriend, Elizabeth Haysom, were convicted in the 1985 stabbing deaths of her parents, Derek and Nancy Haysom, in Bedford County. Soering confessed, but at his 1990 trial said he did so only to protect Elizabeth Haysom from the death penalty. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 90 years in prison. The crime was sensational not only for its brutality–the Haysoms were stabbed repeatedly and nearly decapitated–but for the players. The Haysoms were a prominent family in Lynchburg, while Soering’s father was a ranking diplomat in Washington. Soering and Elizabeth Haysom fled the country after the murders, traveling around Europe before being arrested in London. Soering fought extradition for three years. Although Soering maintains his innocence, he is not asking to be cleared. He asks to be paroled and sent back to Germany. Soering, 44, came close last year, when then-Gov. Tim Kaine requested that he be transferred to a German prison days before Kaine left office. McDonnell revoked Kaine’s request for the transfer soon after taking office in January, and the federal government refused to transfer Soering. Under Kaine’s agreement, Soering would have been eligible for release two years after his transfer. Soering received the DNA test results in October of 2009 but said he didn’t file an appeal in the court because it appeared his transfer was going to go through. By the time McDonnell revoked the transfer, the time had run out for him to do so. The samples–more than 40 samples of blood stains, cigarette butts and other pieces of biological evidence–were tested in 2009 as part of Virginia’s post-conviction DNA testing program. While most of the evidence had deteriorated, nearly a dozen samples were able to be tested. “In knife murders, the perpetrator almost always injures him or herself, leaving DNA,” attorney Gail Ball wrote to McDonnell. “Moreover, the prosecution has claimed consistently and even vehemently for over 20 years that Mr. Soering injured himself at the crime scene, leaving his blood.”



Newsline: Internet censorship snares U.S. ambassador

China has blocked a microblog search of the Chinese name of the U.S. ambassador after he was seen near a pro-democracy gathering, the latest in a series of run-ins between Ambassador Jon Huntsman and the Communist party. Huntsman, a fluent Mandarin speaker tipped as a Republican U.S. presidential candidate, was spotted in a crowd at a pro-democracy gathering on Beijing’s Wangfujing shopping street on Sunday. U.S. officials later said he accidentally came across the gathering while out shopping. China tightened control over the Internet in the wake of unrest in the Middle East, underscoring the party’s anxiety over the easy spread of information that might challenge its one-party rule. The online censorship coincides with a rash of detentions after an overseas Chinese-language website, Boxun, spread a call for “Jasmine Revolution” gatherings to press the party to make way for democratic change.



Newsline: French minister quits over Tunisia ties

The French foreign minister Michele Alliot-Marie has resigned amid claims that she accepted flights and hospitality from an ally of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali just before he was overthrown. She has insisted that she had broken no laws. Calls for her head grew steadily louder after her clumsy handling of the crisis in Tunisia, including taking a holiday there as protests raged and accepting plane rides from an associate of the now-ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Alliot-Marie, in the job only since November, presented her resignation to Sarkozy in a hand-delivered letter which alleged there was a political and media campaign against her. President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose poor ratings have been dragged lower by a storm of criticism of Alliot-Marie, said uprisings sweeping through North African states meant a new approach was needed to help them achieve democracy. Veteran politician Alain Juppe has been appointed France’s foreign minister. Juppe will be given the job of restoring France’s diplomatic credibility and ensuring it takes the right approach to the pro-democracy movement, especially in former colonies where the French elite has had close ties with authoritarian rulers. Alliot-Marie’s fall from grace came as a surprise after a steady Sarkozy came under attack earlier this month for the way his government has run foreign policy. Critics accused him of riding roughshod over foreign service chiefs and keeping key decisions in the hands of advisers.



Newsline: Canada suspends diplomatic presence in Libya

Canada has suspended its diplomatic presence in Libya and evacuated its embassy staff from the strife-torn north African country. ‘The government has decided today to suspend its diplomatic presence in Libya and has instructed all Canada-based staff to depart Libya,’ Dimitri Soudas, communications director for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said at a news briefing. He said such a decision was based on the recommendation of Canada’s ambassador to Libya, and in close collaboration with the actions of Canada’s international partners, including the US. Soudas said a Canadian C-17 Globemaster aircraft took Canadian Ambassador Haig Sarafian and his staff members out of Tripoli Saturday. The military plane, which landed in Tripoli without Libya’s clearance, left there carrying 46 evacuees, including 24 Canadian citizens as well as an Australian diplomatic team for Malta, he said.



Commentary: Pakistan, U.S. diplomatic row over shooter deepens

The diplomatic row between Pakistan and the United States over an American employee, facing double murder charges, has further deepened after recent startling disclosures that he is an undercover secret agent of CIA and was on a special mission in Pakistan. Raymond Davis, an employee of the American Consulate in the east city of Lahore, shot dead two Pakistanis on Jan. 27, claiming that he had acted in self-defence. Davis was later arrested as his car was stuck up in the traffic after his brazen attack. Another Pakistani was crushed to death by the U.S. consulate car, when it arrived at the scene for Davis help. Pakistan spy agency Inter-services intelligence or ISI has now confirmed to the media that Davis is a CIA agent and was on a special mission and also in contact with some elements in the troubled and militants-infested Waziristan tribal region. After revelation that Davis is an undercover CIA agent the ISI has now started scrutiny of the U.S. employees in Pakistan and reportedly asked the CIA to provide details of their agents spread across Pakistan. This will never happen as the CIA keeps all operations by its undercover agents in Pakistan highly secret, according to security experts. The U.S. media reports that the CIA has now suspended all contacts with the ISI show that the Davis controversy has pushed the two close allies in anti-terror war to a clash of interest and the already mistrust has further deepened. There had been a two-week lull in the U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal region since Davis had been arrested in Lahore on Jan. 27. Pakistan and even the U.S. media reported that Davis was also a source of receiving information from his contacts in Waziristan for drone strikes. There has been only one strike in North Waziristan over the past month. The second was in South Waziristan in the same period. No immediate relief is in sight for the U.S. shooter as the court in Lahore has set March 3 for framing formal murder charges against the shooter. A local court would formally chargesheet the U.S. killer on the application by lawyer of the family of one of the slain men. Davis refused to sign the chargesheet on Friday after the lawyer handed it over. The court gives him a week time to read the charges and sign it. The court will make decision even if he refuses to sign the chargesheet. The Davis episode has already caused serious rift between the Pakistan and the U.S. as the U.S. officials and even President Barrack Obama himself demanded his release as they claimed he enjoys diplomatic immunity. But Pakistanis insisted Davis does not enjoy blanket immunity and that the court will decide his fate. The Lahore High Court will hear the case of his diplomatic immunity in the 2nd week of March. Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said his government would not surrender to any pressure and told the parliament last week that the court will decide the case. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari also urged the U.S. to respect Pakistani courts. The U.S. opposes court trial of the shooter and argues he could not be tried in court under Vienna Convention. Influential U.S. Senator John Kerry traveled to Pakistan on an unannounced visit to Pakistan this month but returned empty handed. Several U.S. lawmakers warned against aid suspension to the militancy-hit Pakistan, whose economy mainly depends on foreign aid and loans. Even before the current controversy was started, Pakistan and American leaders had talked about mistrust and differences on several issues and the issue of Davis has brought the two allies at the brink of a physiological war between the intelligence agencies. The American intelligence seemed to be the main looser in this war of words as they are in a dire need of intelligence sharing from their Pakistani counterparts, analysts said. And Pakistanis would be unwilling to extend any help after disclosure that the U. S. may have spread a net of undercover agents in Pakistan. The Davis issue is also a big test case for the Pakistani government as majority in Pakistan wants the government to reject U.S. pressure and let the court decides his fate. Many Pakistanis want the U.S. shooter be handed down severe punishment. The government has so for adopted a firm stand on the issue and it will be difficult for it to show any weakness. The issue was also raised in the parliament and lawmakers called for severe punishment to the American man. Several demonstrations were held across Pakistan and the demonstrators called for hanging of what they called the American killer.



Newsline:851 Americans enjoy diplomatic immunity in Pakistan

American diplomatic and non-diplomatic staff top the list of those enjoying diplomatic immunity in Pakistan – 851 in total including 31 working at its consulate in Lahore alone. The government on Friday informed the National Assembly that as many as 2,570 diplomats of 78 countries enjoyed diplomatic immunity in Pakistan. Minister of state for foreign affairs Ms Hina Rabbani Khar placed the record before the National Assembly according to which in the embassy of the United States in Islamabad, as many as 710 US nationals enjoyed diplomatic immunity including 425 diplomats and 285 non-diplomatic staff. In the US consulate in Lahore, 31 US nationals, including 30 diplomats, enjoyed diplomatic immunity; in the Karachi consulate 52 Americans (49 diplomats and 3 others) enjoy diplomatic immunity while in the Peshawar Consulate 58 US nationals enjoyed diplomatic immunity, including 50 diplomats and eight others. In total, 851 US nationals are working in Pakistan – 554 diplomats and 297 non-diplomats who enjoy diplomatic immunity. Next comes the British High Commission in Islamabad whose 170 staff members enjoy diplomatic immunity, including 167 diplomats and three others. In its Karachi deputy high commission, seven diplomatic staff enjoyed diplomatic immunity. Saudi Arabia comes third, whose 168 nationals enjoy diplomatic immunity including 134 diplomats and 34 others. Of 168 Saudi nationals, 124 work in the Saudi embassy in Islamabad — 102 diplomats and 22 others — all enjoying diplomatic immunity. Its Karachi consulate has 44 members — 32 diplomats and 10 non-diplomatic staff. India has 117 nationals, including 26 diplomats and 91 others who enjoy diplomatic immunity in Pakistan. Russia has 98 members — 45 diplomats and 53 others — who are entitled to diplomatic immunity. The sixth in the line is China with 87 of its nationals having the status of diplomats and no non-diplomatic staff enjoying immunity. The minister further said that 56 Germans including 54 diplomats, 60 Afghans including 57 diplomats, 61 Italians including 34 diplomats, 28 Turks including 25 diplomats, 64 Iranians including 55 diplomats and 60 French nationals also enjoy complete diplomatic immunity.