LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) - An American who killed two Pakistani men in Lahore last week will be held for eight more days to allow for further investigation, a prosecutor said on Thursday, despite U.S. statements that he enjoys diplomatic immunity.
The case of Raymond Davis has become the latest test of ties between the two countries with anti-U.S. Islamist groups demanding Islamabad resist U.S. calls to free him.
Washington says Davis is a diplomat and has called for his immediate release. He was arrested a week ago after shooting dead two Pakistanis in the city of Lahore in what Davis says was an act of self-defense during an attempted robbery.
The Lahore High Court on Tuesday barred the government from handing him over to Washington, saying it would decide whether he has diplomatic immunity or not.
Amid tight security, police brought Davis in an armored car to appear before a magistrate in Lahore on Thursday. Journalists were barred from the court proceedings.
“The police officials told the court that investigations have not yet completed. The judge extended the remand (detention) for eight more days,” Abdul Samad, a deputy prosecutor general at the high court told Reuters.
Pakistan is a crucial ally to the United States in its efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and combat Islamist militancy, but anti-American sentiments run high in the predominantly Muslim nation.
The government of President Asif Ali Zardari, already weakened by a host of problems ranging from political crises to a fragile economy to a raging insurgency, has to act cautiously, as the case is politically explosive.
After first identifying the man as a staff member of the U.S. consulate in Lahore, the embassy on Saturday described him as a diplomat and said he had been unlawfully detained.
Arresting a diplomat is a violation of international norms and the Vienna Conventions, it said.
Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik told the Senate on Wednesday that Davis holds a diplomatic passport but maintained that his case would be settled by the court.
A western diplomat said it was possible that Malik’s comments were laying the groundwork for Davis’ eventual release under laws governing diplomatic immunity.
Davis told the court on Friday that he opened fire on two motorcyclists in self-defense, fearing that they were about to rob him. The two men later died in the hospital.
A third Pakistani was run down and killed when U.S. personnel in an consulate SUV apparently tried to rescue Davis, police said.
Additional reporting by Chris Allbritton; Writing by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Rebecca Conway and Sanjeev Miglani