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American on murder charges again held in Pakistan


U.S. consulate employee Raymond Davis is escorted by police and officials out of court after facing a judge in Lahore, January 28, 2011. REUTERS/Tariq Saeed
U.S. consulate employee Raymond Davis is escorted by police and officials out of court after facing a judge in Lahore, January 28, 2011. REUTERS/Tariq Saeed

By Mubashir Bokhari

LAHORE (Reuters) - A Pakistani court jailed an American, accused of murdering two Pakistani men during what he said was an attempted robbery, for 14 more days on Friday, dragging out a diplomatic row between the troubled allies.

Raymond Davis, a U.S. embassy employee who Washington says has diplomatic immunity, shot and killed two Pakistani men on January 27 in Lahore in what he and the United States say was self-defense.

Pakistan has questioned his diplomatic status and has detained Davis on remand since the incident, infuriating the United States. Washington says his continued detention is a violation of international treaties.

"He has been sent to Kot Lakhpat jail on a 14-day judicial remand," Abdul Samad, deputy prosecutor general, told reporters, referring to the city's main prison. Police will continue their investigation, he said.

The case has driven already high-levels of anti-Americanism to new heights in Pakistan, a country the United States considers a crucial ally in the war against militants and vital to ending the war in Afghanistan successfully.

Lahore Police Chief Aslam Tarin said it did not appear Davis had acted in self-defense. He said Davis had fired at another person fleeing the scene and that the gun wielded by one of the victims was loaded but not cocked.

"It was a clear-cut murder," he said.

The U.S. embassy defended Davis's actions.

"Eye-witness reports the day of the incident showed the American acted in self-defense," said spokeswoman Courtney Kramer Beale.

Samad said Davis's lawyer, Hassam Qadir, argued that Davis has diplomatic immunity and should be released, and that all proceedings should be closed to the public.

Qadir declined to comment. The next hearing is scheduled for February 25.

In addition to the two men shot and killed by Davis, a third man was killed when a vehicle from the U.S. consulate, apparently en route to rescue Davis, struck and killed a passer-by.

Supporters of the slain men have held protests and burned U.S. flags, reflecting the widespread and virulent anti-American sentiment.

The widow of one of the men Davis shot killed herself on Sunday because she said she wanted "blood for blood" and feared Davis would be released.

If it intervenes to seek Davis's release, Pakistan's civilian government will bear the brunt of popular fury at what Pakistanis see as yet another violation of their sovereignty.

But if it allows the Lahore High Court to move ahead with double murder charges, it will infuriate the United States and could even affect a $7.5-billion, five-year civilian aid package.

Earlier this week, Republican Representatives Howard "Buck" McKeon of California and John Kline of Minnesota said they told Pakistani officials on a recent visit that aid could be affected. McKeon is the chairman of the House Armed ServicesCommittee.

(Writing by Chris Allbritton; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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