Devyani Khobragade row: India demands US apology

Devyani Khobragade at an event in New York Devyani Khobragade is the deputy consul general of India in New York

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India has demanded an apology from the US over the treatment of one of its diplomats who was arrested in New York last week on suspicion of visa fraud.

Government minister Kamal Nath urged the US to admit it had made a mistake.

US Secretary of State John Kerry's expression of "regret" over the incident was not enough, he said.

Deputy consul general Devyani Khobragade denies visa fraud and making false statements, after being accused of underpaying her Indian maid.

She was handcuffed and strip-searched last week - her arrest and alleged "humiliation" has led to a major diplomatic row between India and the US.

The story so far...

  • 23 June: Maid Sangeeta Richard goes missing. Ms Khobragade informs Office of the Foreign Missions and New York police
  • 8 July: India revokes Ms Richard's passport, says she's staying in the US illegally; Ms Khobragade accuses her of theft and attempt to blackmail
  • 4 September: US State Department asks Indian embassy to inquire into Ms Richard's allegations disputing her terms of employment
  • 8 October: Indian embassy writes to state department explaining facts of the case and accusing Ms Richard of "seeking to subvert both Indian and US laws"
  • 19 November: A Delhi court issues warrant for arrest of Ms Richard
  • 6 December: India forwards the warrant to the US embassy in Delhi and the state department
  • 10 December: Ms Richard's husband and children fly to the US
  • 12 December: Ms Khobragade arrested in New York, produced in court and released on a $250,000 bond

Ms Khobragade appeared in a Manhattan court last Friday and was freed on a $250,000 (£153,000) bail. She has in turn accused the maid, Sangeeta Richard, of theft and attempting to blackmail her.

Delhi has ordered a series of reprisals against the US. Security barricades around the US embassy in the city were removed and a visiting US delegation was snubbed by senior Indian politicians and officials.

'Not acceptable'

On Wednesday, Mr Kerry spoke to Indian National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, who had described the treatment as "despicable and barbaric".

He said the "unfortunate" incident should not damage US-Indian relations.

But on Thursday, India said nothing short of an apology would suffice.

"They should admit that they have committed a mistake and only then will we be satisfied," Mr Nath said.

A protest near the US Consulate in Hyderabad, India, Thursday, Dec 19, 2013 Anger has been rising in India against the alleged ill-treatment of the diplomat

On Wednesday, angry MPs from several Indian parties called on the government to take tough action against the US and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described Ms Khobragade's treatment as "deplorable".

But US prosecutor Preet Bharara said in a statement that Ms Khobragade "was accorded courtesies well beyond what other defendants, most of whom are American citizens, are accorded".

What is diplomatic immunity?

  • A form of legal immunity that ensures diplomats are exempt from prosecution under the host country's laws
  • Agreed as international law in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961)
  • Under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (1963) a consul is afforded a variation of diplomatic immunity called consular immunity
  • It guarantees immunity from the host country's laws only with respect to acts related to consular duties

According to documents filed in a federal court in New York, Ms Khobragade wrote on a visa application that the maid would be paid $4,500 (£2,746) a month.

But investigators said she instead paid only $573 per month - less than the New York state minimum wage.

If found guilty, Ms Khobragade faces a maximum sentence of 10 years for visa fraud and five years for making false statements.

The US state department said that Ms Khobragade did not have full diplomatic immunity at the time of the alleged offences.

It said under the UN's Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, she is immune from arrest only for crimes committed in connection with her work.

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