CIA contractor Ray Davis freed over Pakistan killings
A Pakistani court has freed a US CIA contractor after acquitting him of two counts of murder at a hearing held at a prison in Lahore, officials say.
Raymond Davis, 36, was alleged to have shot dead two men in the eastern city of Lahore in January following what he said was an attempted armed robbery.
The acquittal came when relatives of the dead men pardoned him in court.
They confirmed to the judge overseeing the case that they had received compensation – known as “blood money”.
Under Pakistani law, relatives of a murder victim can pardon the killer.
Reports say about 18 family members of the two dead men were in court on Wednesday and confirmed that they wanted Mr Davis to be freed and pardoned because they had received “blood money”.
The superintendent at Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore – where Mr Davis was being held – told the AP news agency that the contractor had left the prison in the company of US consulate officials.
Correspondents say that Mr Davis is expected to be flown out of Pakistan at the earliest opportunity and that the deal to release him ends a long-simmering diplomatic stand-off between Pakistan and the United States.
“The court first indicted him but the families later told court that they have accepted the blood money and they have pardoned him,” Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told Reuters.
“The court acquitted him in the murder case.”
Ms Sanaullah said that because Mr Davis was already on bail in a parallel case relating to possession of illegal weapons at the time of the killings, there was no reason why he should not also be released in that case too.
Mr Davis was arrested immediately after he shot dead two men. He has said that he killed them in self-defence as they were trying to rob him.
A third man was run over by a US vehicle that came to the American’s aid but there have so far been no charges in relation to that case.
Public anger intensified after unnamed US officials said that Mr Davis had been secretly working for the CIA at the time.
The BBC’s M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says it is not clear how much blood money was paid to the families of the dead men, and it may never be known.
Our correspondent, who visited the families recently in Lahore, says they had been under great pressure from right-wing religious parties not to accept blood money.
Hardline religious parties have led protests across Pakistan against Mr Davis in recent weeks and were keen to see him punished.
US officials were not available for comment in relation to Wednesday’s dramatic developments, but Washington has always insisted that Mr Davis had diplomatic immunity and was acting in self-defence.