UN Accredits Arrested Indian Diplomat to Political Post

The United Nations has approved the Indian government’s request to accredit diplomat Devyani Khobragade, who was arrested and strip-searched by U.S. authorities following criminal charges including filing a false visa request for her babysitter.

The UN processed Indian Ambassador Asoke Mukerji’s request last week to accredit Khobragade as a member of India’s permanent mission to the world body, spokesman Martin Nesirky said yesterday in a statement.

“The UN has processed this request per its standard procedures,” Nesirky said, without elaborating.

The UN on Dec. 20 transferred the documents to the U.S. government, which as host nation finalizes accreditation, said a UN official who couldn’t be named as matter of policy. The Indian government appointed Khobragade to serve as counselor, a mid-level diplomatic rank, handling political affairs at its mission to the UN, the official said.

Khobragrade’s new role at the Indian mission will grant her a higher level diplomatic immunity than she enjoyed as deputy consul general. The U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Dec. 20 that the diplomat’s new posting wouldn’t “nullify any previously existing criminal charges.”

The U.S. arrested Khobragade on Dec. 12 on criminal charges, which included filing a fake visa application to the State Department for her Indian babysitter and housekeeper and making false statements, including that she paid the Indian national $9.75 an hour when it was $3.31 an hour.

Diplomatic Uproar

The 39-year-old’s arrest triggered a diplomatic uproar between the U.S. and its 11th largest trading partner, with India scaling back security outside the American Embassy in New Delhi and protesters demanding a ban on U.S. goods.

The Indian government says Khobragade, who was released on bail, was mistreated and demands that the U.S. drop all charges. Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, defends the case and the strip-search, saying Khobragade knowingly tried to evade U.S. law.

“This is standard practice for every defendant, rich or poor, American or not, in order to make sure that no prisoner keeps anything on his person that could harm anyone, including himself,” Bharara said in a statement on Dec. 18. “This is in the interests of everyone’s safety.”

Consular officers have limited “personal inviolability” and can be arrested or detained if the offense is a felony, according to a July 2011 publication by the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

Members of diplomatic missions, such as the Indian representation at the United Nations, have “complete personal inviolability, which means that they may not be handcuffed (except in extraordinary circumstances), arrested or detained,” according to the publication.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sangwon Yoon in United Nations at syoon32@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at jwalcott9@bloomberg.net

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