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Preet Bharara defends Devyani Khobragade strip-search, asks why maid getting no sympathy

Dec 20 2013, 08:58 IST
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Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara, in an unusually lengthy written statement in a pending case, said he wanted to clear up the 'misinformation' surrounding the arrest of diplomat Devyani Khobragade. Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara, in an unusually lengthy written statement in a pending case, said he wanted to clear up the 'misinformation' surrounding the arrest of diplomat Devyani Khobragade.
SummaryPreet Bharara says Devyani Khobragade had been 'fully searched' by a deputy marshal after arrest.

included a cavity search.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Marshals Service, Nikki Credic-Barrett, said Khobragade did not undergo a cavity search but did go through a strip search. Under the agency's regulations governing prisoner searches, a strip search can include a "visual inspection" of body cavities, including the nose, mouth, genitals and anus, without intrusion.

Khobragade told colleagues in an email of "repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches, swabbing" and being detained in a holding cell with petty criminals, despite her "incessant assertions of immunity."

While common in the United States, jail strip searches have prompted legal challenges from civil liberties groups concerned that the practice is degrading and unnecessary.

Ezekiel Edwards, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said that despite a Supreme Court ruling last year upholding strip searches even in the absence of any suspicion the individual has contraband or weapons, law enforcement authorities should make an effort to distinguish between prisoners who merit invasive searches and those who pose no risk.

"Saying that it's not unusual is not to say that it should be acceptable," he said.

NO HANDCUFFS

Bharara denied media reports that Khobragade had been arrested in front of her children. "The agents arrested her in the most discreet way possible, and unlike most defendants, she was not then handcuffed or restrained," he said.

Officers allowed her to make calls, including to arrange child care, and even brought her coffee, the prosecutor said.

Bharara said Khobragade clearly tried to evade U.S. law designed to protect from exploitation the domestic employees of diplomats and consular officers.

"One wonders why there is so much outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian national accused of perpetrating these acts, but precious little outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian victim and her spouse?" he said.

The Indian housekeeper whose paycheck is at the center of the dispute, Sangeeta Richard, is said to be upset and disappointed the focus of the affair has shifted.

"The victim in this case is not a criminal defendant but the person who was denied her wages and underpaid for her work," said Dana Sussman, an attorney with the Safe Horizon Anti-Trafficking Program who is representing Richard.

Khobragade falsely stated in her nanny's visa application that she would be paid $9.75 an hour, a figure that would have been in line with the minimum rates required by U.S. law, according to a statement issued last week by Bharara.

The diplomat had privately agreed with the

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