UNITED NATIONS — The Indian diplomat who was strip-searched after her arrest in New York City on visa charges has been transferred to India’s mission to the United Nations, a former colleague said Wednesday.
Devyani Khobragade, who was India’s deputy consul general in New York, says she has full diplomatic immunity from prosecution. The State Department disputes that.
It is unclear how the move to the U.N. mission might affect Khobragade’s immunity.
But Secretary of State John Kerry called a top Indian official to express his regret over the incident, which has outraged India and put a chill in the countries’ relations. India has revoked privileges for U.S. diplomats in protest.
Khobragade was arrested last week 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.
She has pleaded not guilty. Her lawyer, Daniel Arshack, insisted she is and has always been covered by full diplomatic immunity.
State Department officials said Khobragade’s immunity from prosecution was limited to acts performed in the exercise of consular functions.
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said Kerry called India’s National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, who has slammed the diplomat’s treatment as “despicable and barbaric.”
In India, 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.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the diplomat’s treatment as “deplorable.”
Venkatasamy Perumal, consul for press and information at the Indian consulate in New York, confirmed Khobragade’s transfer but declined to comment further.
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