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India denies US cop's arrest linked to diplomat case

Last updated on: April 05, 2014 23:05 IST

India on Saturday dismissed as "ridiculous" suggestions that the arrest of an American police officer in New Delhi was a tit-for-tat response to last year's detention and strip-search of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in the US.

The Indian consulate here said in a statement that any suggestions that the arrest of New York Police Department officer Manny Encarnacion at Delhi airport is connected in any way to Khobragade's detention are "ridiculous".

"The spokesperson of the consulate general of India, New York,  dismissed as ridiculous suggestions that there was any  connection between the detention of an NYPD official in New Delhi and the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York," the consulate said in the statement.

Meanwhile, the US has said that it was time to get past the recent tensions with India and the two sides should move on, days after arrest of an American police officer at New Delhi airport for possessing bullets. "We've said we want to get past some of the tensions that have been there over the past several months and move on," state department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said.

She was responding to questions about the arrest of New York Police Department officer Manny Encarnacion, 49, at New Delhi airport on March 11 for possessing three bullets. "We can't get into the specific case because of privacy considerations," she told reporters yesterday. "I think we feel like we've moved past this and hope the Indians have as well," Harf said, adding that India is a very close and a trusted partner.

"I can't share any more about this individual because of the privacy concerns," she added.

New York Congressman Peter King has termed the arrest of Encarnacion as "politically motivated" in response to the arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade and has asked the state department to seek the release of the officer.

Encarnacion has been charged with violating the Indian Arms Act of 1959 and faces up to seven years in prison. He is forbidden from leaving India till his case has been settled in court. His next court appearance is on April 17.

"I write to express my grave concern over the arrest and pending prosecution of NYPD officer Manny Encarnacion in India," King said in a letter dated April 4 to Secretary of State John Kerry. He said Encarnacion is being prosecuted for "unwittingly" having spare bullets in his luggage. King said bullets being found with Encarnacion was an "innocent mistake".

"This excessive act by the Indian government is clearly politically motivated in response to the arrest of India's then deputy consul general in December 2013 in New York for alleged visa fraud," King wrote in the letter.

"From all accounts this was the result of an innocent mistake. It is critical that the state department intervene in this situation and request that the Indian government release him and permit him to return to the US," the Republican representative from Long Island said. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also said he is "troubled" by Encarnacion's detention and hoped that the police personnel would be treated fairly by Indian officials.

"Obviously we want to know a lot more about what's going on," he said. "But so far, from what I'm hearing, I'm troubled by it and I want to make sure we’re providing support to him and make sure he's not being treated unfairly."

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the department is "staying very engaged with that issue in India. We are certainly concerned for that officer and for his wife who’s there with him in India at this time."But that's a process that's moving slowly in the India justice system -- but we're staying informed." NYPD sergeant Carlos Nieves said he is allowed to carry the ammunition in the US but "obviously" not in India.

"He's not allowed to leave (India). He has a trial date coming up," he said. According to a report in the New York Post, as Encarnacion was being arrested, an airport officer allegedly mentioned the arrest and strip-search of Khobragade last year.

"You guys like to strip-search our diplomats,' the officer allegedly told Encarnacion. He had initially left the bullets in his jacket pocket after he had been to a NYPD firing range for re-certification and forgot to remove them, the Post quoted sources as saying.

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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