Asia

Lahore police hunt Raymond Davis 'blood money' suspect

An ambulance removes the bodies of the shooting victims in Lahore
Image caption Police say that both victims were shot dead at close range

Pakistani police have launched a murder hunt after the widow and mother-in-law of a man shot dead by CIA contractor Raymond Davis last year were killed.

Police suspect Zohra Haider's father of killing her and her mother.

It is thought he was upset at her plans to re-marry, fearing either dishonour or that he might lose out financially.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars were paid in "blood money" to the family to secure Mr Davis's release. His arrest seriously strained US-Pakistani ties.

Meanwhile, Mr Davis appeared in a US court on Monday and denied charges of assaulting a man in a row over a parking space. The assault allegedly happened in October outside a bagel shop in the city of Denver.

In March 2011 a court in Lahore freed Mr Davis after acquitting him of two counts of murder.

He admitted shooting dead Faizan Haider and another man, Mohammad Faheem, in January last year, but said he was acting in self-defence when they tried to rob him. Relatives disputed his account.

The acquittal came when relatives of the dead men pardoned him in court in return for receiving compensation estimated to be about 200 million rupees ($2.34m, £1.1m), known as "blood money".

Under Pakistani Sharia law, relatives of a murder victim can pardon the killer.

'Family argument'

Police say Zohra Haider's father, Shahzad Butt, killed her and his wife, Nabeela Bibi, either because he feared losing some of the "blood money" as a result of the re-marriage plans or because he disapproved of her new fiance who he felt might bring dishonour to the family's name.

Image caption Mr Davis faces a full trial for assault in the US in September

Nabeela Bibi was shot in the family's new house, police say, while Zohra Haider was chased down the street by her father before being killed.

The killings apparently followed an argument about the re-marriage plans. The family bought the new house - in a middle class neighbourhood of Lahore - with "blood money" they received.

Police say Shahzad Butt escaped from the scene and is now an absconder from justice with criminal charges pending against him.

The killing of the two women follows the suicide in February last year of the widow of the other man killed by Raymond Davis. Mohammad Faheem's widow Shumaila poisoned herself, saying she feared Mr Davis would be released without trial.

The US and Pakistan deliberated for nearly seven weeks as to whether Mr Davis had diplomatic immunity before the "blood money" was paid - leading to his release.

Although Washington has consistently denied paying it, many believe it was handed over through Pakistani intermediaries.

The incident seriously damaged already strained relations between the US and Pakistan - a relationship that further deteriorated months later when American special forces killed Osama Bin Laden in a covert raid in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad.

On Monday Mr Davis, 37, pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree felony assault, misdemeanour, disorderly conduct and fighting in public.

His trial date was set for September 2012 and he remains free on bail. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison if convicted.

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