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US Prosecutor: Indian Diplomat was Treated Well in Custody

  • VOA News

FILE - Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

FILE - Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

A U.S. federal prosecutor in the case against an Indian diplomat facing visa fraud charges maintains that the diplomat was well-treated while in detention, contrary to her claims.

Addressing a case that has strained U.S.-Indian relations, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara issued a statement Wednesday saying Devyani Khobragade was given courtesies far beyond what other defendants, most of whom are American citizens, are accorded.

Bharara also questioned why Khobragade's case has garnered more sympathy in India than that of her employee, who was allegedly paid only a third of the amount Khobragade had reported to U.S. officials.

U.S. State Department spokesman Marie Harf said Secretary of State John Kerry called a top Indian official Wednesday to express regret over the incident. She said Kerry, who has daughters near Khobragade's age, empathized with India's sensitivities over the case. Harf also said Kerry was concerned that this "unfortunate public issue" not hurt the "close and vital" U.S. relationship with India.

In an email published earlier Wednesday, Khobragade claimed that following her arrest on December 12, she faced repeated handcuffing and cavity searches while being held on visa fraud charges. She said she broke down in tears multiple times during the ordeal and was held in a space with common criminals and drug addicts despite her repeatedly asserting diplomatic immunity.

Supporters of a small opposition party staged an anti-U.S. protest in New Delhi on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Indian authorities asked U.S. consular officers to return their identity cards, rescinded airport passes and removed concrete security barriers from in front of the U.S. embassy.

The 39-year-old Khobragade is accused of making false statements in support of the visa application of an Indian national she brought to the United States to serve as household staff.

Khobragade, who says she is innocent, has been released on $250,000 bail.

In a diplomatic rebuff, Indian Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde canceled his meeting with a five-member delegation of U.S. Congress members visiting New Delhi. India's ruling Congress party leader, Rahul Gandhi, and the opposition leader, Narendra Modi, also canceled meetings with the group.