India Diplomat in U.S. is Transferred to U.N. Mission

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -

The Indian diplomat who was thoroughly searched after her arrest in New York City on visa charges has been transferred to India’s mission to the United Nations, her lawyer and a former colleague said Wednesday.

It is unclear how such a move might affect Devyani Khobragade’s immunity from prosecution. A U.N. spokesman, however, said the world body had not received the necessary transfer request for her as of Wednesday evening.

Secretary of State John Kerry called a top Indian official to express his regret over the incident, which has outraged India and put a chill in the countries’ relations. India has revoked privileges for U.S. diplomats in protest.

Khobragade, who was India’s deputy consul general in New York, was arrested last week outside of her daughter’s Manhattan school on charges that 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.

Khobragade has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 10 years for visa fraud and five years for making a false declaration.

Khobragade says she has full diplomatic immunity. The State Department disputes that, saying hers is more limited to acts performed in the exercise of consular functions.

Her work status late Wednesday was not clear.

Venkatasamy Perumal, consul for press and information at the Indian consulate in New York, said Khobragade was transferred Tuesday to India’s U.N. mission, but he declined to comment further.

Requests for comment to the U.N. mission’s first secretary were not immediately returned.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters that when such a transfer request is made to the United Nations, the U.N. Secretariat would inform the State Department. It then would have to be reviewed by appropriate authorities in both places.

“It’s not an automatic thing by any means,” Harf said.

At the U.N., spokesman Jerome Bernard said, “as of now, the Secretariat has not received any letter.”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described her treatment as “deplorable.”

In India, the fear of public humiliation resonates strongly, and heavy-handed treatment by the police is normally reserved for the poor. For an educated, middle-class woman to face public arrest and such a thorough search is almost unimaginable, except in the most brutal crimes.

On Wednesday, dozens of people protested outside the U.S. Embassy, saying Khobragade’s treatment was an insult to all Indian women.