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Another US Diplomat Hits Motorcyclists in Pakistan

FILE - Pakistani protesters stage a rally demanding a trial for American diplomat involved in a vehicle crash that killed a person, in Islamabad, Pakistan, April 10, 2018. Two people were injured Sunday in a second such incident involving a U.S. diplomat.

Pakistani police said a U.S. embassy vehicle driven by a diplomat Sunday night hit and injured two motorcyclists in Islamabad, the second such accident in three weeks involving an American official.

The capital city’s police identified the diplomat as second secretary Chad Rex Ausburn, saying he was instantly detained along with his vehicle and that an investigation into the incident was underway.

But police officials expected Ausburn to be released after recording his statement. He was still detained awaiting confirmation of diplomatic immunity.

When asked by VOA for information on the incident, a U.S. embassy spokesperson promised to “get back.”

The motorcyclist and another person on the bike received multiple injuries, but doctors at a city hospital said their condition was stable.

Police would not say whether Ausburn was to be blamed for the accident.

First incident

On April 7, the defense attaché at the U.S. embassy, Col. Joseph Emanuel Hall, ran a red light on a main Islamabad road, killing a motorcyclist and seriously injuring another person on the bike.

U.S. officials expressed their "deep sympathy to the family of the deceased and those injured," and pledged to fully cooperate with local authorities in the investigation.

FILE - Pakistani journalists examine the car of an American diplomat parked inside a police station after an accident in Islamabad, Pakistan, April 7, 2018.
FILE - Pakistani journalists examine the car of an American diplomat parked inside a police station after an accident in Islamabad, Pakistan, April 7, 2018.

Hall’s name has since been placed on Pakistan’s “black list,” preventing him from leaving the country pending a court case against him.

Raja Khalid, deputy attorney general, informed the high court in Islamabad last Tuesday that the U.S. defense attaché could neither be tried nor arrested because the Vienna Convention guarantees immunity to designated diplomats from criminal jurisdiction.

Khalid emphasized the diplomat could only be tried if the U.S. waived his immunity. The court will reconvene later this week for a fresh hearing.

Diplomatic tensions

The two accidents come amid Islamabad’s increased diplomatic tensions with Washington over allegations Pakistan harbors terrorist sanctuaries. Pakistani officials reject these allegations, saying they are baseless.

Last week, a senior Department of State official, Alice Wells, visited Islamabad and took up, among other subjects, Hall’s case in meetings with top foreign ministry officials.

During the talks, Pakistani officials demanded a waiver of diplomatic immunity so that Hall could be prosecuted. But Wells reportedly refused the demand.

The U.S. government also has recently notified Islamabad that Pakistani diplomats will be placed under new travel restrictions starting May 1, underscoring a consistent deterioration in bilateral ties.