09/11/2015, 00.00
INDIA – SAUDI ARABIA
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Delhi vs. Riyadh over diplomat accused of rape

India summoned the Saudi ambassador for help in the investigation after police rescued two Nepali women, aged 30 and 50, in Gurgaon. The latter were held at the home of a Saudi diplomat who fled to the embassy. Protesters demand that his diplomatic immunity be lifted. Riyadh can repatriate its diplomat or allow him to be questioned.

New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – India's External Affairs Ministry summoned the Saudi Ambassador and sought his embassy's cooperation in the case of two Nepali citizens, Ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup tweeted.

Saudi Ambassador Saud Mohammed Alsati was told that the accused diplomat should give a statement to the Gurgaon police probing the case.

Claiming innocence, the alleged rapist took refuge with his family at the Saudi embassy in the Indian capital. Meanwhile, protesters gathered outside the diplomat’s house demanding action.

The two women, Juna Damai, 30, and Gita Tamang, 50 (pictured), were rescued on Monday with the help of Maiti India, an NGO fighting the trafficking of children and women, after police raided the diplomat’s home in Gurgaon (Haryana), 30 kilometers from New Delhi.

The victims had been kept in a confined space for the sexual pleasure of the diplomat and his friends. Medical reports confirmed that the two were sexually abused. Both had bruises all over their body, including near their private parts. According to hospital sources, the younger of the two victims had developed infections.

The two women left Nepal after the earthquake on 25 April. They found work as maids at the diplomat’s home. However, they said that they were starved, sexually abused and gang-raped by the diplomat and other men.

Indian media have reported that the allegations have led to a "diplomatic crisis" between India and Saudi Arabia. In view of the situation, the Saudi embassy has two options. If it persists with the assertion of the diplomat’s innocence, it could allow him to be questioned by police and help the investigation without actually losing his immunity. It could also insist on diplomatic immunity under the 1961 Vienna Convention

Some experts believe that Saudi Arabia will not allow any of its officials to be tried by another country. The option for Riyadh is thus to move the diplomat out of India, whilst New Delhi has the option of declaring him persona non grata if he does not cooperate with the investigation.

For the Indian government, this is a delicate issue. Some three million Indians live and work in Saudi Arabia, which has been India’s largest oil supplier since 2001.

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