A Pakistani court on Thursday delayed until next month a hearing into the diplomatic immunity of an American who killed two local men, a case that has pushed ties between Islamabad and Washington toward breaking point.
The postponement to March 14 will likely be met with exasperation in Washington, where the Obama administration has urged Pakistan to free consular employee Raymond Davis and avoid a precedent being set for trials of U.S. officials abroad.
The High Court in the city of Lahore granted a government request to postpone the hearing on whether Davis, a former Special Forces soldier who shot and killed two men on Jan. 27, is protected by diplomatic immunity.
Davis, who is assigned to the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, claimed he was acting in self-defence during an armed robbery in the city.
Pakistani officials, in asking for a delay, may be trying to buy time so tensions can ebb and officials can work behind the scenes to broker a way out of their dilemma.
"Hang Raymond Davis," read a banner at the court compound.
The delay may embolden U.S. politicians threatening to reconsider billions of dollars in U.S. aid that Pakistan needs to equip its military, rebuild after last year's punishing floods and tackle rampant poverty.
Islamabad may ask U.S. officials to consider approaching relatives of the men Davis killed "and try and sort out a deal with them", said political analyst Ejaz Haider.
There is mounting speculation the United States might back payment of compensation, or blood money, as laid out under Pakistani law, but the United States might be loathe to support payment in what it sees as a case of self-defence.
Waseem Shamshad, brother of one of the slain men, ruled out the possibility of striking any deal with the U.S. government or Davis. "We stand by our position that there is no possibility of patching it up with them," he told Reuters.
ReutersLast Mod: 17 Şubat 2011, 11:01