A Pakistani court on Wednesday acquitted and released US consulate worker Raymond Davis, who was being held in connection with the shooting deaths of two men. Earlier in the day, the court formally indicted [Times of India report] Davis on two counts of murder after the Lahore High Court [official website] ruled Monday that, despite US assertions [JURIST report], he does not qualify for diplomatic immunity [Times of India report]. The charges were subsequently dismissed [AFP report] once a USD $2.35 million "blood money" settlement was reportedly reached with the victims' families, an arrangement that prompted some Pakistanis to suspect coercive influence by US officials. Davis maintains that he acted in self-defense after being confronted by two armed men on motorcycles, who were believed to have robbed a Pakistani citizen at gunpoint minutes earlier.
The dispute over Davis has strained what are already shaky diplomatic relations between the US and Pakistan. Those relations have been plagued by a variety of factors, including deaths related to airstrikes within Pakistan [WP report]. Pakistan filed a complaint with NATO [JURIST report] in October as a result of those airstrikes. Despite the fractured relationship, Pakistan remains one of the key US allies in the Middle East. In September of last year, Pakistani authorities arrested three individuals [JURIST report] linked with Faisal Shahzad [JURIST news archive], the man accused of attempting to detonate a bomb in Times Square.