NEW YORK (AP) — A federal prosecutor ventured into the tense relationship between the U.S. and India on Wednesday, defending the arrest and strip-search of an Indian diplomat held on visa charges and saying she was treated very well, even given coffee and offered food while detained.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who made the highly unusual move of issuing a lengthy statement addressing the arrest and issues not in a criminal complaint, said diplomat Devyani Khobragade was afford courtesies most Americans wouldn't get — such as being allowed to make phone calls for two hours to arrange child care and sort out personal matters — after she was discretely arrested by U.S. Department of State agents outside her children's Manhattan school.
Khobragade was arrested last week on charges she lied on a visa application about how much she paid her housekeeper, an Indian national. Prosecutors say the maid received less than $3 per hour for her work.
Bharara said Khobragade, who has pleaded not guilty, wasn't handcuffed, restrained or arrested in front of her children. And he said that while she was "fully searched" in private by a female deputy marshal, the move was a standard safety practice all defendants undergo.
Khobragade has been transferred to India's mission to the United Nations, according to her lawyer and a former colleague. It's unclear how such a move might affect her immunity from prosecution, and a U.N. spokesman said it hadn't received a necessary transfer request from her Wednesday evening.
News that Khobragade was strip-searched has chilled U.S.-Indian relations, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called a top Indian official to express his regret over what happened. India has revoked privileges for U.S. diplomats in protest.
Bharara, who was born in India but moved with his family to New Jersey, defended his case.