In streets of Lahore, anger at U.S. shooter runs deep

LAHORE Wed Feb 16, 2011 12:49pm EST

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LAHORE (Reuters) - A day before a Pakistani court considers the question of diplomatic immunity for a U.S. national accused of two murders, the relatives of one of the slain men demanded "blood for blood" and threatened revenge.

U.S. consulate employee Raymond Davis shot dead two Pakistanis last month in what he said was self-defense during an armed robbery.

Washington has insisted Davis, whose role at the U.S. consulate in Lahore is unclear, should be released immediately. Pakistan says his status should be determined by the courts.

"We will only accept blood for blood," said Imran Haider, the eldest brother of Faizan Haider, one of the slain men. "He should be tried in Pakistan and sentenced to death here."

The Lahore High Court will hold another hearing in the case on Thursday, during which the United States is expected to present a petition to certify that Davis has diplomatic immunity and should be released.

Obama has sent Senator John Kerry to Pakistan to help secure Davis's release. Kerry has issued a statement of regret over the loss of life and pledged that the U.S. Department of Justice would open a criminal investigation against Davis.

As Pakistan celebrated the birthday of Islam's Prophet Mohammad, the Ravi Road area of Lahore, where the Haider family lives, was bedecked with tinsel streamers. Religious hymns blared from a boombox propped up on a couple of cinderblocks.

Inside the modest receiving room of the Haider household, where photos of prize goats previously sacrificed for Muslim holidays dot the walls, Imran was in no mood to compromise.

"He has killed our innocent brother and we will seek his death in return for this crime," Haider said while a relative sat nearby dabbing watery eyes.

"Immunity doesn't mean he should kill people on the street," he said. "And if he is sent to the United States, we will fight to the last drop of our blood."

He added: "We will come to the streets and muster support from the people of Pakistan and surround the homes and residences of the rulers.

"If they play any role in the release of Raymond Davis, I believe the people will oust the two governments" at the federal and provincial level.

Many in Lahore, Pakistan's lively cultural capital, agreed.

"Raymond Davis should be hanged in public. He should not be handed over to the Americans," said Tanvir Ahmed, a student at the University of Engineering and Technology in Lahore.

"If our rulers hand him over to the U.S., we will kick them out of the power corridor."

The row over is the latest issue straining ties between two nations that are supposed to be working to stamp out a tenacious Islamist insurgency that has fueled attacks against U.S. soldiers in neighboring Afghanistan.

The issue has also become a lightning rod for anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan. Freeing Davis would be a risky move for Pakistan's government, already struggling with a stagnant economy and discontent over corruption, poverty and power cuts.

(Editing by Maria Golovnina)

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