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Indian diplomat asks for extension of date for filing of indictment

Jan. 7, 2014 at 6:49 AM   |   Comments

NEW YORK, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- An Indian diplomat in New York, arrested for visa fraud, has asked for an extension of the filing of indictment due to ongoing talks with the prosecution.

Daniel Arshack, lawyer for Devyani Khobragade, 39, in a letter to U.S. Magistrate Sarah Netburn asked the Jan. 13 deadline for the prosecution to file the indictment against Khobragade be extended to Feb. 12, the Press Trust of India news agency reported. The diplomat was arrested in New York Dec. 12 and is free on $250,000 bail.

"Significant communications have been had between the prosecution and the defense and amongst other government officials and it is our strong view that the pressure of the impending deadline is counterproductive to continued communications," Arshack said in the request.

The visa fraud case concerning Khobragade's housekeeper and the circumstances surrounding the diplomat's arrest have stirred strong reactions in India and resulted in retaliatory steps. The case threatens to affect strategic relations between the world's two largest democracies although U.S. officials continue to describe it as an isolated case. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has already expressed "regret" over Khobragade's arrest.

Efforts have been under way since the arrest to resolve the case. Khobragade was India's deputy consul general in New York at the time of her arrest but since then has been transferred to India's mission at the United Nations, which could result in the upgrading of her status from consular immunity to diplomatic immunity.

Khobragade is also accused of making false statements regarding her wages to her housekeeper.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in court papers prosecutors had been holding discussions in the hope of "negotiating a plea" with Khobragade, the New York Times reported Tuesday. His office said the government last Saturday "outlined reasonable parameters for a plea that could resolve the case, to which the defendant has not responded."

His office also said his office remains open to continuing such talks, the Times said.

The Washington Post said although it is not yet clear how the case would be resolved, a postponement could give more time to the U.S. State Department to find ways to resolve the situation.

India wants all charges against Khobragade dropped.

Topics: John Kerry
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