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India diplomat says she faced cavity search in New York

By Nirmala George

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 01:55 p.m. HST, Dec 18, 2013

NEW DELHI » An Indian diplomat said she faced repeated "handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches" following her arrest in New York City on visa fraud charges in a case that has infuriated the government in New Delhi.

In an email published in India media on Wednesday, Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul general in New York, said she was treated like a common criminal despite her "incessant assertions of immunity."

"I broke down many times as the indignities of repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches, swabbing, in a holdup with common criminals and drug addicts were all being imposed upon me despite my incessant assertions of immunity," she wrote.

An Indian official with direct knowledge of the case confirmed to The Associated Press that the email was authentic. The official spoke anonymously because of the sensitivity of the case. He said India is trying to get the woman returned home.

"India's top demand right now is: Return our diplomat," he said, adding that Khobragade would have to report to the precinct in New York every week to check in with the police.

Khobragade, 39, was arrested last week on charges that she submitted false documents to obtain a work visa for her Manhattan housekeeper. Prosecutors say Khobragade claimed she paid her Indian maid $4,500 per month but actually paid her less than $3 per hour.

Khobragade has pleaded not guilty and plans to challenge the arrest on grounds of diplomatic immunity, her lawyer said last week.

The case has escalated into a serious diplomatic issue. India has begun retaliating against American diplomats. The measures include revoking diplomat ID cards that brought certain privileges, demanding to know the salaries paid to Indian staff in U.S. Embassy households and withdrawing import licenses that allowed the commissary at the U.S. Embassy to import alcohol and food.

Police also removed the traffic barricades near the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi in retaliation for Khobragade's treatment. The barriers were a safety measure but India said they clogged up traffic.

Marie Harf, U.S. State Department deputy spokeswoman, said federal authorities would work on the issue with India.

"We understand that this is a sensitive issue for many in India," she said. "Accordingly, we are looking into the intake procedures surrounding this arrest to ensure that all appropriate procedures were followed and every opportunity for courtesy was extended."

Harf also said as India's deputy consul general, Khobragade does not have full diplomatic immunity, but rather consular immunity from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts only with respect to acts performed in the exercise of consular functions.

Khobragade's case had received widespread attention in India. The case touches on a string of issues that strike deeply in India, where the fear of public humiliation resonates strongly and heavy-handed treatment by the police is normally reserved for the poor. For an educated, middle-class woman to face public arrest and a strip search is almost unimaginable, except in the most brutal crimes.

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2NDC wrote:
Welcome to America ma'am. While in our country, you will obey our laws or be treated accordingly.
on December 17,2013 | 10:52PM
RetiredUSMC wrote:
on December 18,2013 | 03:11AM
Nevadan wrote:
on December 18,2013 | 03:52AM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
Yep and what that means is when a diplomat invokes diplomatic immunity the cops have to let her go. That's the way it is. The US can expel her from the country, but they cannot detain her once diplomatic immunity is invoked by her. Like it or not, it is the cops who broke the law.
on December 18,2013 | 05:48AM
onevoice82 wrote:
I guess you did not read the article too closely. Her diplomatic immunity is not total. That being said, I suddenly was overcome with the urge to quote "Beavis and Butthead'. Bungholio!
on December 18,2013 | 06:13AM
st1d wrote:
namaste. now, assume the position.
on December 18,2013 | 03:46AM
Nevadan wrote:
If she is a diplomat, she is entitled to Diplomatic Immunity, which is recognized internationally. She cannot be arrested or handcuffed. The State Department will have to apologize. This is a serious matter.
on December 18,2013 | 03:51AM
krusha wrote:
Read the last part of the article. She only had partial immunity when performing acts while exercising consular functions. Visa fraud and ripping off her housekeeper is not exercising consular functions.
on December 18,2013 | 05:51AM
Hauolie wrote:
Thanks for clearing that up for people who only read the top half of the article..............
on December 18,2013 | 06:26AM
cojef wrote:
Was going to say, "tit for tat", but if she had limited diplomatic immunity, then it a horse of a different color. However, for the crime she is alleged to have committed, repeated body cavity searches are not appropriate. Of course, on the other hand, she could be exaggerating the searches. Often wondered, how credit companies deal with skipped charges by diplomats???
on December 18,2013 | 07:59AM
Nevadan wrote:
Boy, you need to learn to think. The State Department spokesman was trying to justify their mistake. There are plenty of data demonstrating the incompetence and COI of federal employees: NSA, IRS and now the State Dept. Most federal employees could not make it in the private sector. The final judge will be the international community. The State Dept will have to back down and apologize. This issue will not disappear without .....
on December 18,2013 | 09:25AM
Nevadan wrote:
The question is the distinction between embassy and consulate. Both are diplomats by international standard. The State Department will have to apologize.
on December 18,2013 | 08:00AM
Nevadan wrote:
If she has a diplomatic passport, she is a diplomat, and is entitled to diplomatic immunity, period.
on December 18,2013 | 09:38AM
WKAMA wrote:
I think the US should best send this woman back to India before the US get into a real diplomatic mess with India. Pursuing this situation further is not worth it.
on December 18,2013 | 06:19AM
Nevadan wrote:
on December 18,2013 | 09:32AM
Anonymous wrote:
She may not be the only one who got caught. The US needs to scrutinize all of the consulates/embacies, get plenty more going stuff.
on December 18,2013 | 09:47AM
saveparadise wrote:
Strip and cavity search for a criminal charge of falsifying a work visa? Sounds extreme indeed. Don't any of you suspect there is more to this story? Prostitution? Drug smuggling by the maid? We are only reading one side of the story. Common sense will tell you that there is much more to this investigation....but what?
on December 18,2013 | 10:38AM
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