By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Pakistani officials say a U.S. citizen accused in the murder of two Pakistani men has been freed after the families of the victims agreed to accept a cash payment, or “blood money,” for their loss.
The announcement from Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah came just hours after a court in the eastern city of Lahore formally charged CIA contractor Raymond Davis with two counts of murder over the January 27 shooting deaths.
Davis had claimed the two men followed him on a motorbike through traffic and were attempting to rob him and that he acted in self-defense.
The United States said several times that Davis enjoyed diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and should not be detained or prosecuted.
Families of the two slain Pakistanis were taken into the court and signed documents formally forgiving him in exchange for receiving an undisclosed sum of money.
Payment of “diyya,” or blood money, is permitted under Islamic Shari’a law. Such compensation is often used to resolve such cases in Pakistan.
Officials from the U.S. Consulate in Lahore left the jail with Davis without making any comment on the outcome of the case.
But the settlement should ease tensions that developed between the two countries when Pakistan shrugged off the U.S. claim that Davis had diplomatic immunity.
Media in Pakistan have offered differing accounts of what happened on January 27, with some reporting the two Pakistanis who were killed were working for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and others saying the two were armed robbers who had already attempted to rob other people that same day.
Davis’s case angered many Pakistanis, some of whom demonstrated demanding Davis receive the death penalty.
The United States had been trying to resolve Davis’s case quickly and quietly and return the focus of U.S.-Pakistani relations back to fighting terrorism.
But the decision to release Davis may still have repercussions in Pakistan.
Many people there are already displeased that the United States is using Pakistan as a transit country to ship supplies to troops in Afghanistan and that U.S. predator drone strikes continue in Pakistan’s tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.
Releasing Davis may appear to some to be an example of the government in Islamabad caving in to U.S. demands.