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India gets Devyani back, sends US diplomat home

Khobragade returned on Friday after an understanding between the US and India in which she was indicted but granted diplomatic immunity from visa fraud charges. On the same day, official sources said the US embassy was ‘asked to withdraw forthwith a US diplomat of similar rank as Khobragade.’

‘We have reasons to believe that the officer was closely involved in the processes related to the Khobragade case and the subsequent unilateral action by the US side,’ said a source. India has accused this officer at the US embassy in New Delhi of playing a role in the events leading up to Khobragade’s arrest, said the source. Our source also said the officer was involved in getting the family of Khobragade’s former domestic help, Sangeeta Richard, fly out of India for the US. The director-rank diplomat was given ‘a little more than 48 hours’ to leave India, sources said.

‘An Indian diplomat, whose arrest over treatment of her servant sparked a bitter row, has left the United States,’ said US authorities. On a day of dramatic developments, Khobragade was indicted for visa fraud and making false statements by a grand jury in New York which held that the charges against her will remain even as she headed back to India after being accorded full diplomatic immunity.

She was granted the immunity on 8 January under the India-US headquarters agreement. ‘Devyani Khobragade given G1 visa by #USA according her full diplomatic immunity. #India transfers her back. She is now flying home (sic),’ tweeted Syed Akbaruddin, MEA spokesperson.

According to reports, Khobragade, before boarding the plane back to India, said: ‘The charges against me are false and baseless. I look forward to proving them wrong.’ Khobragade was arrested and strip searched for alleged visa fraud last month. At the time of her arrest, the 39-year-old diplomat was India’s deputy consul general in New York. Prosecutors said after Khobragade was granted immunity, US officials told her to leave the country.

In a statement after the grand jury hearing, her lawyer Daniel Arshack said Khobragade ‘is pleased to be returning to her country. Her head is held high. She knows she has done no wrong and she looks forward to assuring that the truth is known.’ Her father Uttam Khobragade thanked the Indian government for his daughter’s return. ‘It is only because of the Indian government’s effort that my daughter is returning to India with full diplomatic immunity,’ he said.
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