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Devyani Khobragade's lawyer today rejected US prosecutor Preet Bharara's assertion that the Indian diplomat does not have immunity from prosecution and should face charges of visa fraud, saying the court will decide such issues.
India-born Bharara filed a memorandum in a federal court yesterday opposing 39-year-old Khobragade's motion to dismiss the indictment against her. He submitted a declaration by the State Department which concludes that the diplomat does not
enjoy immunity from prosecution for the crimes in the indictment.
Responding to Bharara's motion, Khobragade's attorney Daniel Arshack told PTI that the "US Attorney is again wrong on the facts and the law". The court will decide these issues, he said.
Arshack has time till February 7 to file his reply to the government's motion.
Meanwhile, Indian-American attorney Ravi Batra said US federal law states that Khobragade's consular status-based immunity, limited to official acts, does not legally prevent arrest from occurring and charges being levelled.
He contended that it is not for the judge to decide if Khobragade ought to have been arrested or charged. The two countries need to settle the issue to prevent further damage to ties, he said.
Khobragade, a 1999-batch IFS officer, was accused of visa fraud and making false declarations in the visa application for her maid Sangeeta Richard. She was arrested, strip-searched and held with criminals, triggering a row between India and the US.
India retaliated by downgrading the privileges of a certain category of US diplomats, among other steps. Following her indictment by a US grand jury, Khobragade returned to India on January 10 after she was asked to leave the country by the State Department.