Indian diplomat arrested, strip-searched

The arrest of a female Indian diplomat on charges that she committed visa fraud was enough to anger New Delhi and the Indian people.

But then, following standard procedure, US Marshalls strip searched the prisoner, cuffed her, and brought her to the court house for arraignment. Those actions set off near hysterical protests from Indian officials and brought retaliation to American diplomats.


The arrest and detention of an Indian consular official in New York on visa fraud charges has created a diplomatic uproar, with punitive steps taken against State Department officials in New Delhi.

Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul general, was arrested on December 12 after she dropped her daughter off at school.

She was not handcuffed until she arrived at the courthouse, a law enforcement source familiar with the case told CNN, calling that "a courtesy not afforded to most people," including alleged white-collar criminals.

Court papers allege that Khobragade had submitted false documents to obtain a work visa for her female housekeeper, paying her less than the amount stated.

Khobragade, 39, was held in a cell with other females and strip-searched in New York following her arrest, the U.S. Marshals Service said, noting such treatment was standard procedure in her case and that no policies were violated. She eventually posted bond and was released.

She has been moved to India's Permanent Mission to the United Nations, an Indian external affairs ministry official said.

The case has set off outrage in India about Khobragade's treatment by U.S. law enforcement officials. But it has also drawn concern from human rights advocates about her allegedly underpaying her housekeeper.

The Indian government has described the diplomat's treatment by the U.S. justice system as barbaric.

"We are shocked and appalled at the manner in which she has been humiliated by the U.S. authorities," Indian external affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said last week. He called the treatment of Khobragade "absolutely unacceptable."

New York police were not involved. The U.S. Marshals Service handled her detention.

Indian officials have summoned U.S. Ambassador Nancy Powell, taken away U.S. diplomats' identification cards that give them diplomatic benefits, and removed security barriers outside the U.S. embassy in New Delhi.

Several senior government ministers and politicians snubbed a visiting congressional delegation as well.

"I think we have taken a tough stand. We do protect our foreign service officers and any other Indian that is unfairly treated outside," said Deputy Foreign Minister Preneet Kaur. "And I think in the strongest diplomatic way we can take it up, it is being done."

Removed security barriers? That's not retaliation. That's acting as an accessory to terrorism. The Indian government better hope no passing terrorist attacks our embassy before they come to their senses and restore the barriers.

Should foreign nationals caught up in the justice system be treated differently than Americans? Of course not. The ideal justice system treats everyone the same, regardless of their station in life. We don't always live up to that ideal, but criticism of it is misplaced.

Perhaps they should ask their diplomat what she's doing paying her help less than she stated on her visa.