By Saeed Shah | McClatchy Newspapers
ISLAMABAD — In a sudden twist Wednesday, Raymond Davis, the American CIA contractor on trial for double murder in Pakistan, was freed after the families of the dead men forgave him, officials and reports said.
The development — likely to have resulted from a behind-the-scenes deal between Washington and Islamabad — defuses a tense diplomatic stand-off between allies Pakistan and the United States. The dispute over Davis, who Washington claimed had diplomatic immunity, had threatened relations between the two countries and their cooperation in the anti-terror fight.
The trial for Davis started Wednesday behind closed doors inside a jail in the eastern city of Lahore. After he was charged with the two murders, the families of the dead men told the court that they had forgiven him.
Confirming that Davis had been freed, the provincial law minister, Rana Sanaullah, said that the court had accepted the pardon of the families. He denied speculation that the families had been forced into the agreement.
“The court would have asked and ensured that there wasn’t any pressure put on them (the families),” Sanaullah told reporters.
Under an article of Islamic law that is part of Pakistan’s penal system, the aggrieved families can forgive an accused, with “blood money” paid to compensate for a crime.
It was not immediately clear if compensation was paid in this case, but in any case, Washington was benefiting from an application of Sharia law.
Davis gunned down two men in Lahore in January, who he said were attempting to rob him, causing a public outcry in Pakistan.
Washington has always claimed Davis had diplomatic immunity and should never have been arrested. It emerged that Davis is a contractor working for the CIA. The case inflamed public opinion, which was already strongly anti-American, and the release of Davis could spark protests. The issue was taken up by Islamist political parties.
Pakistan is said to be the global headquarters of Al Qaida as well as the hideout for the leadership of the Afghan Taliban. The country’s assistance is considered vital to the success of the campaign in Afghanistan, as well as the global fight against terrorism.
But the actions of Davis had ruptured cooperation between the CIA and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and fed frenzied media stories that say there are many armed Americans on the loose in Pakistan pursuing some secret, sinister agenda.
Read more: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/03/16/110533/cia-contractor-ray-davis-freed.html#ixzz1GllPQd7L