South Asia

Raymond Davis and Lahore shootings - unanswered questions

A rally against Raymond Davis in Lahore
Image caption The killings threaten to derail US-Pakistan ties

A court in Pakistan has released an American who shot dead two men in Lahore in January 2011 - after documents were produced which said the families of the murdered men had pardoned him after receiving "blood money". Although Raymond Davis is now free, the controversy surrounding him remains. His arrest severely strained relations between the US and Pakistan government. It continues to evoke strong public emotion and has raised anti-American feeling to an all-time high. The BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan looks at some of the unanswered questions.

Was Raymond Davis a diplomat?

If you are thinking of a suavely dressed man in a three-piece suit who holds meetings with local officials to further or broaden his country's agenda, you would be wrong. Mr Davis was definitely not employed for his diplomatic skills - he is more a "hands-on" person, working in what the US embassy says is its "administrative and technical affairs section".

Reports from the US say he is a former special forces soldier who left the military in 2003 and is working for the US embassy in Pakistan. As such, the US insists he is covered by the Vienna Convention which guarantees immunity from prosecution for all diplomatic staff.

Could he have been a spy?

Many Pakistanis always believed this - although there was some scepticism from the international media. They pointed to the fact that there were few credible explanations as to why Mr Davis was going around Lahore with a Glock pistol in a car with local number plates without informing local authorities.

It is a requirement for embassy staff - especially those from Western embassies - to inform local police of their movements, simply because they are prime targets for militants in Pakistan. Mr Davis's department in the US embassy is widely seen in Pakistan as a cover for Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operations. Mr Davis himself said he was a consultant employed by the US government.

Researchers in the US say that since leaving the military, Mr Davis worked for a security firm called Hyperion LLC. But subsequent investigations clearly proved that Mr Davis was a CIA contractor employed for security duties. Investigations by the US media also proved that Hyperion exists only as a website. The offices that the company says it has in Orlando have been vacant for several years and the numbers on its website are unlisted.

Image caption Mr Davis insists he was acting in self-defence

Could Mr Davis have been convicted of the murders?

The fact that Mr Davis was released after being pardoned by the relatives of the victims - rather than on diplomatic immunity - proves that he would probably have been convicted of murder.

But it is unlikely he would then have faced the death penalty. The fact that he was released though the payment of "blood money" also proves he was, in fact, not part of the US diplomatic staff in Pakistan.

Should Mr Davis have been carrying a gun?

Legally speaking, only Pakistani citizens with licences issued by the interior ministry are allowed to carry arms. No foreigner is allowed to carry arms, except soldiers or guards within the premises of an embassy.

Both Pakistani nationals and foreigners caught carrying arms can be charged under a Pakistani criminal law which stipulates a jail term of six months to two years in addition to a fine. Mr Davis was also charged under this law but following his acquittal for the murder charges, this case has also been dropped.

Image caption Matters were further inflamed by the suicide of the widow of one of the men killed by Mr Davis

Was he acting in self-defence?

That was the initial plea made by Mr Davis and the US embassy. However, subsequent investigations by the police, forensic labs and the local and international media suggest that the two men were driving away from Mr Davis when they were shot.

In February Lahore's police chief said that Mr Davis was guilty of "cold-blooded murder" - he said that no fingerprints had been uncovered on the triggers of the pistols found on the bodies of the two men. Furthermore he said that tests had shown that the bullets remained in the magazines of their guns, not the chambers, suggesting they weren't about to shoot him.

On the face of it, this left Mr Davis's claim that they were robbers - with one even apparently cocking a gun at his head - looking very thin. In addition, police said that ballistics evidence showed that the pair were shot in the back - which again suggested they were moving away from Mr Davis, rather than about to attack him.

Who were the Pakistanis that Mr Davis shot?

In his initial statement, Mr Davis said they were robbers who were trying to steal his valuables. He and the US embassy maintained this story. However, the men have no criminal records as such. Both have been identified as residents of Lahore by the police.

The pair were carrying licensed pistols - a fact which led many to believe they might indeed have been robbers. However, security sources in Lahore say that they were part-time or low-level operatives for the local intelligence services. Although reports are sketchy about what they were doing in relation to Mr Davis, security officials believed it could have been a case of a surveillance operation going horribly wrong.

Pakistani intelligence services routinely tail and monitor all embassy staff, Western or otherwise. But other officials, especially the police, continue to insist they were just petty bandits.

Image caption A third man on his motorbike was killed in the incident by a mystery US car

What about the second car and its victim?

A side event to the main drama concerning Mr Davis was the fact a third man was also killed during the incident. He was an innocent bystander run over by a US embassy vehicle, which was initially said to have arrived to rescue Mr Davis.

The fact that an embassy vehicle was able to get to the spot so quickly was a source of astonishment to anyone who is even vaguely aware of the geography of Lahore. Given the incident was over within minutes, it seems incredible that anyone could negotiate the 12km (7.4-mile) 40-minute drive in peak traffic in less than five minutes.

But subsequent investigations have now shown that the second car - a Toyota Land Cruiser - was with Mr Davis at the time of the incident. In fact, according to eyewitnesses, Mr Davis was leading and clearing the way for the Toyota when the incident took place.

In the light of what happened afterwards, it seems Mr Davis was in "protective mode" and opened fire to "secure" whoever or whatever was in the Toyota - the interior of this vehicle was not visible as its windows were tinted. It is evident in local TV footage that the second vehicle is going away from Mr Davis at the time of the incident.

As it disappears into the dust, Mr Davis calmly pulls over and gives himself up. The Pakistani authorities have asked for the Land Cruiser and its driver to be handed over - a request with which the US has yet to comply.

What about behind-the-scenes negotiations?

As well as public pressure, US officials also privately warned Pakistan's government of far-reaching and severe consequences if Mr Davis was convicted. Unnamed US officials used the media to issue veiled warnings to Pakistan that diplomatic ties could have been cut and all aid stopped.

Despite Islamabad's public stance on Mr Davis, government officials are said to have privately assured Washington that he would have eventually been released. However, public pressure has remained high and there could still be a massive anti-government backlash. Even before the release of Mr Davis, Pakistan's Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, hinted that "blood money" could be paid to the families of the two dead men.

But the most important talks were between the CIA and an incensed Pakistani intelligence service who believed that Mr Davis was in fact part of a much larger CIA operation in the country - working without the knowledge of the host country. Intelligence officials are believed to have sought assurances that it would be discontinued as a prerequisite for Mr Davis's release. This is now believed to have been achieved - leading to the court's decision.

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