(CNN) -- 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
New York police were not involved. The U.S. Marshals Service handled her detention.
Barriers removed from embassy
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."
The U.S. State
Department sought to prevent tensions from escalating further, while
admonishing the Indian government on the punitive measures.
Marie Harf, a State
Department spokeswoman, said appropriate procedures appear to have been
followed by the Diplomatic Security agents who arrested Khobragade. She
said conditions surrounding her processing by U.S. Marshals would be
"We understand that this
is a sensitive issue for many in India," Harf said. "Accordingly, we
are looking into the intake procedures surrounding this arrest to ensure
that all appropriate procedures were followed and every opportunity for
courtesy was extended."
She said the United
States and India "enjoy a broad and deep friendship and this isolated
episode is not indicative of the close and mutually respectful ties we
But Harf said
Khobragade's arrest should not be cause for a diplomatic tit-for-tat
with reciprocal measures against U.S. diplomats.
"This limited episode
was somebody who was charged with a crime, is a separate and isolated
incident," Harf said. "We have conveyed at high levels to the government
of India our expectations that India will continue to fulfill all of
its obligations under the Vienna Convention."
"The safety and security
of our diplomats and consular officers in the field is a top priority,"
she added. "We'll continue to work with India to ensure that all of our
diplomats and consular officers are being afforded full rights and
Harf said that
Khobragade enjoys "consular immunity," a limited diplomatic immunity
related to her official duties. Under the 1963 Vienna Convention on
Consular Relations, consular officials can still be arrested for acts
committed outside of official job functions.
Daniel Arshack, claims that she is entitled to diplomatic immunity and
can't be prosecuted under U.S. law, CNN's Indian sister network IBN
The Marshals Service
said in a statement that she was "subject to the same search procedures"
as others arrested and "held within the general prisoner population"
along with other female defendants in a cell while awaiting court
The statement said the
service reviewed her treatment and determined that her "intake and
detention" were in accordance with its policies.
Concerns about domestic workers
Human Rights Watch, a
New York-based advocacy group, acknowledged concerns over the use of
strip-searches in the U.S. justice system, but it focused its attention
on the treatment of domestic workers.
"The common practice in
the U.S. of strip-searching people who the police take into custody
raises important human rights questions about treating individuals with
dignity and respecting their privacy," said Nisha Varia, a senior
researcher in the group's women's rights division.
"But other human rights
issues at hand -- the allegations that Khobragade took advantage of her
domestic worker -- remain," Varia said in a post on the group's website.
"Despite wide coverage
of the case in India, there has been little public outrage or shame that
Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul general in New York, who has
championed women's rights in other settings, allegedly paid her domestic
worker a fraction of New York's legal minimum wage," Varia wrote.
Her post noted that Human Rights Watch has documented mistreatment of domestic workers across the globe.
"They often face
underpayment and long working hours with little hope of redress," she
wrote. "Diplomats from many countries who abuse their workers have often
used their status to skirt the law."
Case focuses on hourly wage
U.S. prosecutors allege
that Khobragade stated in the visa application for her housekeeper that
she would pay her at least $9.75 per hour, the New York minimum wage.
But in reality, the prosecutors say, the housekeeper ended up being paid the equivalent of less than $3.31 per hour.
brought to the United States to serve as domestic workers are entitled
to the same protections against exploitation as those afforded to United
States citizens," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a
statement last week announcing Khobragade's arrest.
"The false statements
and fraud alleged to have occurred here were designed to circumvent
those protections so that a visa would issue for a domestic worker who
was promised far less than a fair wage," he said. "This type of fraud on
the United States and exploitation of an individual will not be
Khobragade's father, Uttam, insisted that his daughter is innocent.
"My daughter has not done any wrong," he told IBN on Tuesday.
She has been charged
with one count of visa fraud and one count of making false statements,
U.S. prosecutors say. The visa fraud charge carries a maximum sentence
of ten years in prison; the charge of making false statements has a
maximum prison sentence of five years.
Adding extra complexity
to the case, the Indian government says Khobragade's housekeeper, who it
named as Sangeeta Richard, "absconded" in June.
The Delhi High Court
issued an injunction in September seeking to stop Richard from
"instituting any actions or proceedings against Dr Khobragade outside
India on the terms or conditions of her employment," the Indian embassy
said in a statement last week.
It said the U.S.
government was "requested to locate Ms Richard and facilitate the
service of an arrest warrant, issued by the Metropolitan Magistrate of
the South District Court in New Delhi."
Check out some of our most read stories from 2013:
#shortyellows: Florida quietly shortened yellow lights
Terrorism Warning: Memo says terrorists practicing dry-runs on Florida flights
Kittens shot: Officer shoots kittens in front of children
Courtroom apology: Woman apologizes for flipping off judge
Weird ice: Strange, giant circles appear on frozen pond
Controversial Club: College student organizes "White Student Union"
CFO Trouble: School administrative chief in trouble over her porn sex blog
Warning Shot Wife: Mother gets 20 years for firing warning shots at abusive husband
Science Arrest: Teen girl arrested over science project explosion
Wait, WHAT?? Dog shoots man in the leg with a handgun
Popular photo galleries:
Faces of Meth: Devastating before and after photos of meth abusers
Travon Martin Shooting: Trayvon Martin crime scene photos and George Zimmerman injury photos
Hooters Winners: Winners of the 2013 Hooters swimsuit pageant
Rejected: Funny Florida license plates rejected by the DMV ***warning graphic***
Deadly sinkhole: Home collapses, man dies in giant sinkhole
Florida Sex Offenders: Look up sex offenders in any Florida neighborhood here
Restaurant Inspections: Look up inspection reports for any Florida restaurant here