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Nation/World

December 20, 2013

Lawyer: Indian housekeeper did not extort money

(Continued)

Bharara said she was treated well and questioned why there was more sympathy for the diplomat than the housekeeper.

Khurshid said the U.S. attorney had ignored the fact that a legal case was already under way in India in the dispute between the housekeeper and the diplomat. Khobragade notified authorities in Delhi over the summer that she was being blackmailed, and the Delhi police launched a case against the woman, Indian officials said.

“When the legal process in another friendly and democratic country is interfered with in this manner, it not only amounts to interference, but also raises the serious concern of calling into question the very legal system of that country,” said Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for the External Affairs Ministry.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed regret over the incident, and State Department officials have declined to provide details about the case, citing law enforcement restrictions that prevent them from discussing it. They say they are still trying to assess what occurred.

Khurshid said he would speak to Kerry later Thursday.

“This is an extremely distressing and hurtful incident that needs to be addressed,” he said. “We hope our concerns will be addressed. And if the U.S. has any concerns that we need to address, we will examine them.”

Khurshid also said that India did not want to sour relations with the United States over the issue, but would insist on the return of its diplomat and the dropping of charges against her. “We are keen that no damage of an irreversible nature should happen to our relationship,” he said.

Khobragade could face a maximum sentence of 10 years for visa fraud and five years for making a false declaration if convicted. She has said she has full diplomatic immunity. The Department of State disputes that, saying her immunity is limited to acts performed in the exercise of consular functions. Her work status yesterday was unclear.

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