India

Indian visa row diplomat Devyani Khobragade leaves US

  • 10 January 2014
  • From the section India
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An Indian diplomat whose arrest in the US has sparked a diplomatic row has left for India, officials say.

Devyani Khobragade was ordered to leave the US on Thursday after she was indicted on criminal charges and India refused to waive her immunity.

Ms Khobragade was arrested in New York last month on charges of visa fraud and of underpaying her housekeeper.

She was handcuffed and strip-searched, and India demanded an apology for her "humiliation".

Ms Khobragade has always denied any wrongdoing.

A senior US official said Ms Khobragade had departed from New York's John F Kennedy International Airport on Thursday night, heading for India.

Indian foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said: "At the time of her departure to India, Counsellor Khobragade reiterated her innocence of charges filed against her.

"She affirmed her gratitude to the government of India, in particular to the external affairs minister, and the people of India, as also the media, for their strong and sustained support during this period."

Reprisals

On Thursday, US officials said they had accepted India's request to accredit Ms Khobragade to the UN, which confers broader immunity than that enjoyed by a consular official.

It would be almost unprecedented for the US to have denied such a request unless the diplomat was a national security risk.

Washington then asked the Indian government to waive the immunity but India refused, so the US then "requested her departure", US officials said.

US prosecutors said the charges against her would remain pending.

Ms Khobragade, India's deputy consul general in New York, was arrested after a complaint from the maid, Sangeeta Richard.

Ms Khobragade in turn accused Ms Richard of theft and attempted blackmail.

Delhi said it was "shocked and appalled" at the manner of her arrest, and ordered a series of diplomatic reprisals against the US.

Security barricades around the US embassy in the capital were removed and a visiting US delegation was snubbed by senior Indian politicians and officials.

On Wednesday, the US embassy in Delhi was ordered to stop "commercial activities on its premises". India also said that embassy cars could be penalised for traffic offences.

The embassy has been told to shut down a club within its premises which includes a pool, restaurant and tennis court, NDTV news channel said.

Activists of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), linked to India"s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), burn an effigy depicting U.S. President Barack Obama
The dispute over the case has affected US-India relations

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