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Indian Diplomat’s Manhattan Arrest Met With Protests Abroad

Devyani Khobragade Has Found Sympathy Among New York's Indian Community
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Demonstrators protest outside of the U.S. Embassy in India. (Credit CBS 2)

Demonstrators protest outside of the U.S. Embassy in India. (Credit CBS 2)

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NEW YORK(CBSNewYork/AP) — The arrest of a diplomat in New York city has led to outrage in India.

Protests, which included a nearly naked man wearing a Barack Obama mask, caused safety concerns at the U.S. Embassy, where demonstrators were irate over the arrest and strip-search of an Indian diplomat in New York.

Devyani Khobragade, 39, is based on the Upper East Side and has focused on women’s issues, CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported.

Khobragade allegedly lied on a visa application for her nanny. Feds said she promised to pay the woman $4,500 a month but was actually paying her the equivalent of $3.31 an hour.

In a recent email Khobragade criticized the manner in which her arrest was executed.

“I broke down many times as the indignities of repeated handcuffing, stripping, and cavity searches — swabbing — in a holdup with common criminals and drug addicts were all being imposed upon me despite my incessant assertions of immunity,” Khobragade said.

Khobragade has found sympathy in New York’s Indian communities.

“There should be no reason why any diplomat should be just handcuffed on the street and taken away,” Indian immigrant, Dennis Daniel said.

India has retaliated in small ways such as cutting off U.S. Diplomats’ access to tax-free liquor, and more seriously, by removing security barriers near the U.S. Embassy.

Analyst Aseem Chhabra told CBS 2 that Indian politicians have been driving the dispute.

“Any which way they can hurt Americans slightly, that will get them some bonus brownie points in the election next year,” Chhabra said.

Khobragade has pleaded not guilty and was free on bond on Wednesday night.

Secretary of State John Kerry called a top Indian official in an effort to ease the tension between the two countries.

In his conversation with Indian National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, Kerry “expressed his regret, as well as his concern that we not allow this unfortunate public issue to hurt our close and vital relationship with India,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a written statement.

Meanwhile, in a highly unusual move for a federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara issued a lengthy statement Wednesday saying Khobragade was treated very well and was even given coffee and allowed to make phone calls in a car for two hours — courtesies most other defendants wouldn’t get.

“She was not, as has been incorrectly reported, arrested in front of her children.  The agents arrested her in the most discreet way possible, and unlike most defendants, she was not then handcuffed or restrained.  In fact, the arresting officers did not even seize her phone as they normally would have.  Instead, they offered her the opportunity to make numerous calls to arrange personal matters and contact whomever she needed, including allowing her to arrange for child care.  This lasted approximately two hours.  Because it was cold outside, the agents let her make those calls from their car and even brought her coffee and offered to get her food,” Bharara said.

He said U.S. Department of State agents arrested her discreetly last week and she wasn’t handcuffed or restrained. He said she was searched by a female deputy marshal in private but calls it standard procedure for “every defendant, rich or poor, American or not.”

“It is true that she was fully searched by a female Deputy Marshal — in a private setting — when she was brought into the U.S. Marshals’ custody, but this is standard practice for every defendant, rich or poor, American or not, in order to make sure that no prisoner keeps anything on his person that could harm anyone, including himself.  This is in the interests of everyone’s safety,” Bharara added.

Bharara concluded his statement by saying that the goal of his office is to uphold the rule of law and protect victims regardless of the social status of the victim or the accused.

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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