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Charges 'false and baseless', says Khobragade as she boards flight home

New York, Jan 10 (PTI & Reuter): Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade asserted on Friday that the charges against her in a US court are ”false and baseless” and the stand taken by her and the Indian government in the case will be “vindicated”.

”The charges against me are false and baseless. I look forward to proving them wrong,” Khobragade told PTI as she boarded the plane back to India.

She also affirmed her determination to ensure that this episode does not leave a lasting imprint on her family, in particular her children who are still in the United States.

Khobragade was indicted by a US grand jury for visa fraud and allegedly making false statements. The jury held that the charges against her would remain even as she headed back to India after being accorded full diplomatic immunity.

She will have to face trial, if she returns to the US without diplomatic immunity, US Attorney Preet Bharara said.

Khobragade, 39, was arrested on December 12 on charges of making false declarations in a visa application for her maid. She was released on a $250,000 bond.

The diplomat was strip-searched and held with criminals, triggering a row between the two sides with India retaliating by downgrading privileges of certain category of US diplomats.

“I want to thank my minister, my colleagues in MEA and other ministries and departments, our entire political leadership, our media, and last but not the least all the women and men of our country who stood by me in this terrible situation. The stand that my government and I have taken will be vindicated,” she added.

Meanwhile, Devyani’s father Uttam Khobragade said his daughter rejected an offer of a plea bargain to resolve the dispute and be allowed to stay in the United States. Her children and husband, a US citizen of Indian origin, will soon follow her to India, he said.

If the diplomat had accepted the plea bargain, the charges against her would have been dropped but she decided against it, he said.

”Devyani said, this amounts to compromising the sovereignty of the country,” Uttam Khobragade said, noting that the dispute with the housekeeper was being dealt with by Indian courts.

Documents and statements from US officials reveal a dizzying 24 hours in which the state department granted Khobragade diplomatic immunity, unsuccessfully asked India to waive that immunity and ordered her to leave the country immediately.

According to documents provided by Khobragade's lawyer Daniel Arshack, the US mission sent a letter to Khobragade on Wednesday granting her diplomatic status as of 5.47 p.m. (2147 GMT) that day.

On Thursday, the Indian mission to the United Nations rejected the State Department's request that her immunity be waived. Then in a diplomatic note, the US mission requested Khobragade's immediate departure from the US and said it would take steps to prevent her from obtaining a visa in the future. It also said Khobragade risked arrest if she tried to return.

“Upon her departure a warrant may be issued for her arrest and should she seek to enter the United States she could be arrested,” the note said.


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