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US dismisses charges against Indian diplomat

A US judge has thrown out charges against Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, shown in New Delhi on January 11, 2014/AFP

A US judge has thrown out charges against Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, shown in New Delhi on January 11, 2014/AFP

New York, March 13- A US judge has thrown out charges against an Indian diplomat whose New York arrest and strip search sparked a bitter diplomatic row with Delhi.

Devyani Khobragade was arrested on December 12 outside her children’s New York school, accused of defrauding her Indian housekeeper’s visa application.

An outraged India claimed full diplomatic immunity on her behalf after Khobragade said she was subjected to a cavity search while in custody.

Employed at the Indian consulate in New York, she acquired in January the full diplomatic immunity granted to diplomats at the Indian mission to the UN.

It was on grounds of immunity that she petitioned a US court on January 9 to drop the case.

US District Judge Shira Scheindlin dismissed the indictment Wednesday on grounds that Khobragade was granted full diplomatic immunity on January 8.

“Even if Khobragade had no immunity at the time of her arrest and has none now, her acquisition of immunity during the pendency of proceedings mandates dismissal,” Scheindlin wrote.

“Khobragade’s conditions of bail are terminated, and her bond is exonerated It is ordered that any open arrest warrants based on this indictment must be vacated.”

India welcomed on Thursday dismissal of the case, adding that government lawyers would now scrutinise the court’s order.

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“It is good as far as it goes. The lawyers will need to examine it carefully before we are able to respond substantively and in more detail,” foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told AFP in New Delhi.

Speaking in Mumbai, Khobragade’s father thanked the Indian government for rallying behind the family and lashed out at the US for trying to frame his daughter in a “false” case.

Khobragade returned to India in January, leaving behind her two daughters and husband, a US citizen. She is now working for India’s foreign affairs ministry in Delhi.

After her arrival in India, Khobragade told an Indian newspaper of her anguish at being separated from her seven and four year old girls and their father, an academic.

US prosecutors, disputing her immunity, accused Khobragade of sometimes forcing her Indian maid to work 100-hour weeks, even when sick and often without a day off, for pay as little as $1.22 an hour.

The diplomatic row between the two countries, which had embraced each other as strategic partners, strained ties and fanned resentment on both sides.

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