ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- The Pakistani government has three weeks to determine if a U.S. official held for the deaths of two Pakistanis has diplomatic immunity, a court ruled.
The provincial court's ruling Thursday came one day after U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., visited Pakistan to press for the release of Raymond Davis, a U.S. Consulate officer, on diplomatic grounds and try to resolve the case that has severely harmed U.S.-Pakistani relations. Davis has maintained the Jan. 27 shootings in Lahore were a case of self-defense because he feared the two men were going to rob him.
In his argument before the court in Lahore, the advocate general of Punjab Province, Khawaja Haris, said authorities filed a "double murder case" against Davis, The New York Times reported.
The Obama administration has maintained that Davis's status as a "technical and administrative" official, a phrase used in the 1961 Vienna Conventions, grants him immunity. During a news conference Thursday, President Barack Obama expressed sorrow for the loss of life, but said the principle of diplomatic immunity must be upheld.
Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry's order that the Foreign Ministry must present its findings in three weeks likely will intensify the standoff between the two uneasy allies, the Times said.
The Obama administration already postponed a Washington meeting later this month in which Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States were to discuss progress in Afghanistan. The administration also warned that a state visit by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in March was in jeopardy if there is no resolution in the matter. Congress also has threatened to cut military assistance to Pakistan.
Kerry said the U.S. Justice Department would conduct its own criminal investigation regardless of immunity.
U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Kerry "made clear that Pakistan has obligations under international law to release (Davis)."
Crowley said he was not aware of any poor treatment of Davis but "we do not believe that his incarceration is proper" and that under the "Vienna Convention, he should not have been incarcerated."