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Devyani Khobragade, India diplomat, says she faced cavity search in NYC

The NYPD's 'Barbaric' Arrest Of An Indian Diplomat

NEW DELHI (AP) - An Indian diplomat said U.S. authorities subjected her to a strip search, cavity search and DNA swabbing following her arrest on visa charges in New York City, despite her "incessant assertions of immunity."

The case has sparked widespread outrage in India and infuriated the New Delhi government, which revoked privileges for U.S. diplomats to protest the woman's treatment. It has cast a pall over India-U.S. relations, which have cooled in recent years despite a 2008 nuclear deal that was hailed as a high point in the nations' ties.

Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul general in New York, was arrested Thursday outside of her daughter's Manhattan school on charges that she lied on a visa application about how much she paid her housekeeper, an Indian national.

Prosecutors say the maid received less than $3 per hour for her work.

In an email published in India media on Wednesday, Khobragade said she was treated like a common criminal.

"I broke down many times as the indignities of repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches, swabbing, in a holdup with common criminals and drug addicts were all being imposed upon me despite my incessant assertions of immunity," she wrote.

An Indian official with direct knowledge of the case confirmed to The Associated Press that the email was authentic. The official, who spoke anonymously because of the sensitivity of the case, said India's priority now is to get the woman returned home.

"India's top demand right now is: Return our diplomat," he said, adding that Khobragade, who was released on $250,000 bail, would have to report to police in New York every week.

Devyani Khobragade

Khobragade's case has touched a nerve in India, where the fear of public humiliation resonates strongly and heavy-handed treatment by the police is normally reserved for the poor. For an educated, middle-class woman to face public arrest and a strip search is almost unimaginable, except in the most brutal crimes.

Prosecutors say Khobragade claimed on visa application documents she paid her Indian maid $4,500 per month, but that she actually paid her less than $3 per hour. Khobragade has pleaded not guilty and plans to challenge the arrest on grounds of diplomatic immunity.

Marie Harf, U.S. State Department deputy spokeswoman, said Khobragade does not have full diplomatic immunity. Instead, she has consular immunity from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts only with respect to acts performed in the exercise of consular functions.

If convicted, Khobragade faces a maximum sentence of 10 years for visa fraud and five years for making a false declaration.

The fallout from the case was growing. India retaliated against U.S. diplomats with measures that include revoking diplomat ID cards that brought certain privileges, demanding to know the salaries paid to Indian staff in U.S. Embassy households and withdrawing import licenses that allowed the commissary at the U.S. Embassy to import alcohol and food.

Police also removed the traffic barricades near the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi in retaliation for Khobragade's treatment. The barriers were a safety measure but India said they clogged up traffic.

On Wednesday, dozens of people protested outside the U.S. Embassy, saying Khobragade's treatment was an insult to all Indian women.

In New Delhi, the lower house of Parliament had to be temporarily adjourned Wednesday after lawmakers noisily demanded that it adopt a resolution against the United States.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described Khobragade's treatment as "deplorable."

Arun Jaitely, leader of the opposition in the upper house, said the government had to register its "strongest protest" to the U.S. government for the "lack of respect for India." He called for a review of India's relations with the United States, a demand that was vociferously seconded by many lawmakers.

Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said the arrest was a "matter of national outrage." He promised angry lawmakers that the government would make an official statement in Parliament on the incident.

Harf said Tuesday that federal authorities would work on the issue with India.

"We understand that this is a sensitive issue for many in India," she said. "Accordingly, we are looking into the intake procedures surrounding this arrest to ensure that all appropriate procedures were followed and every opportunity for courtesy was extended."

Join the discussion

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dicktaylor97526 December 18 2013 at 7:30 AM

So in other words this diplomat is above the law and can do whatever she damn well wants to.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
fungun57 December 18 2013 at 7:30 AM

to many people come to this country and expect to not have to obey the laws . because of political standings, But a American go to another country they are watched very close and every move recorded. most are not welcome. or get SHOT and nothing is done.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
Hey, John Boy December 18 2013 at 7:31 AM

So, the essence is that this woman held the maid as a three dollar an hour slave and now this "diplomat" finds herself in "deplorable" condition for being arrested for the crime, essentially, of holding someone in servitude? Hmmmmm . . .

Flag Reply +4 rate up
BOB December 18 2013 at 7:35 AM

The "poor" house keeper had full benefits plus room, and board. She also took the job knowing exactly what the conditions were. America's imagined exceptionalism, and imperial hubris will be our undoing.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
3 replies
JAY December 18 2013 at 7:35 AM

"in a holdup with common criminals and drug addicts" What makes her better than any of them? What should they have done? Put her up in Trump Towers?. She broke the law and should be treated like anyone else who broke the law.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
stevevasta December 18 2013 at 7:38 AM

I'm curious as to why a strip search and cavity search were deemed necessary. I mean, did they think the woman was hiding extra money in her **** or up her ***?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
2 replies
porterhouse31 stevevasta December 18 2013 at 7:44 AM

Standard Operating Procedure during any and all arrests in NYC to insure no contraband or weaponry is being smuggled into the jail. And yes, it happens to everyone, and yes, people do sneak things in their anus.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
usapaydirt stevevasta December 18 2013 at 8:06 AM

I think it's safe to say, she wasn't hiding a spare servant up there. Very good question.....

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Wayne December 18 2013 at 7:40 AM

The government screws all of us everyday somehow or some way. So they took a peek at her for no reason at all. So what's the problem.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Jason December 18 2013 at 7:45 AM

Being an Indian diplomat I do feel we should immediately release her. Then we need to tell India to get ALL of their diplomats out of our nation and we close their embassies. I dont care what the laws are in India, we do not allow slavery in the USA, not even by diplomats with immunity.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
ptrussel2003 December 18 2013 at 7:53 AM

What she did is wrong. However, we don't know the whole story. I'm shocked that we would go after this women so aggressively when there are so many illegal aliens in the United States committing violent crimes. It doesn't make sense.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
2 replies
aaldrew ptrussel2003 December 18 2013 at 8:08 AM

Cavity searches? Wrong..!!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
ptgrella ptrussel2003 December 18 2013 at 6:35 PM

ptruswweI2003: Read my reply to Lawmantoo. She played out a personal deception on them that felt like intimate hate. or was being paired or compared to a terrorist hate.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
lwa100 December 18 2013 at 7:58 AM

At least she did not go on tv multiple times and lie to the American public. Period!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
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