CIA agent faces murder charges at hearing in Lahore jail as US-Pakistani relations deteriorate

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President Camacho
Raymond Davis trial under way in Pakistan

The trial of Raymond Davis, the CIA agent facing charges of double murder in Pakistan , has started amid tight security and some secrecy in a Lahore jail.

The press and public have excluded from the trial in Kot Lakhpat jail, where Davis has been held since he shot dead two men on a busy Lahore street on 27 January .

Raymond Davis. Photograph: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

US embassy spokeswoman Courtney Beale confirmed that a sessions court hearing was taking place on Friday but said the full trial would not start until Pakistani prosecutors pressed formal charges.

The US consul general in Lahore, Carmela Conroy, was present at the hearing.

The Davis case has sparked a crisis between Pakistan and the US, prompting meetings between top intelligence and military leaders in both countries in recent days.

On Tuesday Pakistan's top brass, led by army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, met a delegation of American generals led by Admiral Mike Mullen at a luxury resort in Oman to discuss the matter.

The US side stressed that it "did not want the US-Pakistan relationship to go into a freefall under media and domestic pressures", according to an account of the meeting obtained by Foreign Policy magazine.

Pakistan's intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has made judicious media leaks to help stir public anger towards Davis. They have included the release of documents this week that made unprecedented criticism of the CIA, suggesting the relationship is near breaking point.

US intelligence has also exerted pressure, claiming that Davis is in mortal danger at Kot Lakhpat jail and restarting the campaign of CIA drone strikes in the tribal belt that had stopped on 23 January.

There have been almost daily drone strikes since Monday – the CIA's way of "showing who's in charge", admitted one senior Pakistani official. At the Oman meeting Mullen told Kayani he could apply "other levers" if a solution to the case was not found, the official said.

The backroom manoeuvring takes place against a backdrop of public outrage in Pakistan, where militant and religious groups have launched noisy street protests calling for the hanging of Davis, a 36-year-old former special forces soldier.

The anger is driven by outrage that an armed American could open fire in the country's second-largest city, killing two people with 10 bullets. American claims that Davis has diplomatic immunity are legally contested and enjoy little public sympathy.

Religious groups and some political parties are putting pressure on the families of the two men Davis killed not to accept compensation from the US government – a solution that US officials quietly favour.

The papers have been filled with lurid accounts of Davis's activities in Pakistan, with some alleging he was linked to the Taliban or served as the acting head of the CIA in Pakistan – unlikely tales apparently designed to step up pressure on the Americans.

There has been little focus, however, on the activities of the two men Davis killed, variously described as robbers or intelligence operatives. A senior ISI official has told the Guardian that the agency suspects Davis knew the men.

Pakistani and Indian Newspapers Say US CIA Contractor Raymond Davis Organized Terrorist Activities

By Dave Lindorff

Posted on February 27, 2011, Printed on February 28, 2011

Pakistani and Indian newspapers are reporting that Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor in jail in Lahore facing murder charges for the execution-slayings of two young men believed to be Pakistani intelligence operatives, was actually involved in organizing terrorist activities in Pakistan.
As the Express Tribune, an English-language daily that is linked to the International Herald Tribune , reported on Feb. 22:

“The Lahore killings were a blessing in disguise for our security agencies who suspected that Davis was masterminding terrorist activities in Lahore and other parts of Punjab,” a senior official in the Punjab Police claimed.

“His close ties with the TTP [the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan] were revealed during the investigations,” he added. “Davis was instrumental in recruiting young people from Punjab for the Taliban to fuel the bloody insurgency.” Call records of the cellphones recovered from Davis have established his links with 33 Pakistanis, including 27 militants from the TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi sectarian outfit, sources said.

The article goes on to explain a motive for why the US, which on the one hand has been openly pressing Pakistan to move militarily against Taliban forces in the border regions abutting Afghanistan, would have a contract agent actively encouraging terrorist acts within Pakistan, saying:

Davis was also said to be working on a plan to give credence to the American notion that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are not safe. For this purpose, he was setting up a group of the Taliban which would do his bidding.

According to a report in the Economic Times of India , a review by police investigators of calls placed by Davis on some of the cell phones found on his person and in his rented Honda Civic after the shooting showed calls to 33 Pakistanis, including 27 militants from the banned Pakistani Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an group identified as terrorist organization by both the US and Pakistan, which has been blamed for the assassination of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and for the brutal slaying of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. (You'd think this would be a big story for the Wall Street Journal, especially on the editorial page, but so far, there has been no mention of it in Murdoch's rag.)

Meanwhile, while the US continues to claim that Davis was “defending himself” against two armed robbers, the Associated Press is reporting that its sources in Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), are telling them that Davis “knew both men he killed.”

The AP report , which was run in Thursday’s Washington Post, claims the ISI says it “had no idea who Davis was or what he was doing when he was arrested,” that he had contacts in Pakistan’s tribal regions, and that his visa applications contained “bogus references and phone numbers.”

The article quotes a “senior Pakistani intelligence official” as saying the ISI “fears there are hundreds of CIA contractors presently operating in Pakistan without the knowledge of the Pakistan government or the intelligence agency.”

In an indication that Pakistan is hardening its stance against caving to US pressure to spring Davis from jail, the Express Tribune quotes sources in the Pakistani Foreign Office as saying that the US has been pressing them to forge backdated documents that would allow the US to claim that Davis worked for the US Embassy. President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top US officials have been trying to claim Davis was an Embassy employee, and not, as they originally stated, and as he himself told arresting police officers, just a contractor working out of the Lahore Consulate. The difference is critical, since most Embassy employees get blanket immunity for their activities, while consular employees, under the Vienna Conventions, only are given immunity for things done during and in the course of their official duties.

The US had submitted a list of its Embassy workers to the Foreign Office on Jan. 20, a week before the shooting. That list had 48 names on it, and Davis was not one of them. A day after the shooting, the Embassy submitted a “revised” list, claiming rather improbably that it had “overlooked” Davis. At the time of his arrest, Davis was carrying a regular passport, not a diplomatic one, though the Consulate in Lahore rushed over the following day and tried to get police to let them swap his well-worn regular passport for a shiny new diplomatic one (they were rebuffed). Davis was also carrying a Department of Defense contractor ID when he was arrested, further complicating the picture of who his real employer might be.
President Camacho

Wow. I guess time will tell if the Pakis are telling tall tales to placate their people or if this guy really was false-flaggin it for the Ziocons.

It's really surprising that no US news outlets (at least online) are picking up on this story, which would seem to be front page news. Even the original article(s) I posted were from a British source.