|US asks why no outrage over Indian consul’s helper
A US federal prosecutor ventured into the tense relationship between Washington and India, defending the arrest and strip-search of an Indian diplomat held on visa fraud charges and saying she was treated very well, even given coffee and offered food while detained.
US Attorney Preet Bharara, who made the highly unusual move of issuing a lengthy statement addressing the arrest and issues not in a criminal complaint, said deputy consul Devyani Khobragade (Pictured) was afford courtesies most Americans would not 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 Indian domestic helper. Prosecutors say the maid received less than US$3 per hour for her work.
Bharara said Khobragade, who has pleaded not guilty, was not 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 is unclear how such a move might affect her immunity from prosecution, and a UN spokesman said it had not received a necessary 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 revoked privileges for US diplomats in protest.
Bharara, who was born in India but moved with his family to New Jersey, defended his case.
“One wonders whether any government would not take action regarding 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 declaration 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 Tuesday to India's UN mission.
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.
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.''
Khobragade was arrested by the Department of State's diplomatic security team and then handed over to U.S. marshals in New York.
The US Marshals Service confirmed 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.