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U.S. presses for release of diplomat accused in Pakistan shooting

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Pakistan continues to hold U.S. diplomat
  • U.S. Ambassador Cameron Munter met with Pakistan's president Monday
  • Consulate employee Raymond Davis has been jailed since the January 27 shooting
  • The State Department says he shot two men in self-defense and has diplomatic immunity
  • Evidence suggests the men killed by Davis were robbers, police say

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- The top U.S. envoy in Pakistan is pressing the country's president to release a jailed American diplomat who allegedly shot and killed two men, a U.S. embassy spokeswoman said Tuesday.

In a meeting with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari Monday night, U.S. Ambassador Cameron Munter "reiterated what we have requested and asked for him to be released," U.S. embassy spokeswoman Courtney Beale said.

Raymond Davis, who works at the U.S. consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, has been jailed since January 27, when authorities say he shot and killed two Pakistani men on a motorcycle.

Davis said the men attacked him and tried to rob him as he drove through a busy neighborhood, according to the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan. The families of the men filed police reports accusing Davis of murder, a police spokesman said.

"We continue to make clear to the government of Pakistan that our diplomat has diplomatic immunity, in our view was acting in self-defense and should be released," U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters Monday.

Scheduled talks in the coming weeks between Washington and Islamabad could be changed, Beale said. But she denied Pakistani media reports that the United States has put on hold high-level bilateral meetings with Pakistan to pressure the government to release Davis.

"We are making decisions on upcoming meetings on a case-by-case basis," she said.

On February 24, Pakistani officials are scheduled to meet with U.S. officials in Washington to discuss the war in Afghanistan.

Zardari has urged people not to use the incident for "political point scoring," spokesman Farhatullah Babar said last week.

"The president said that the government had taken a principled position, that the matter was before the judiciary whose verdict should be awaited and respected," Babar said.

A Pakistani police official said last week that evidence found on the bodies the two men killed aligns with the State Department's claim that the men were robbers.

When police searched the bodies, they found stolen cell phones and cash that belonged to two men who had reported being robbed earlier that day by two gunmen on a motorcycle, the police official told CNN.

Last week a judge in Lahore ordered the government to hold Davis for at least eight more days and place his name on an exit control list to ensure he does not leave the country.

The case has sparked some protest and fueled anti-American sentiments in Pakistan.

During several protests last week, hard-line clerics condemned the shootings and demanded the government not release Davis to the U.S. government.

Local television showed a rally in Karachi where protesters re-enacted their version of the shooting. Men wearing smiling masks and holding toy guns played the part of Davis and gleefully danced around several protesters, who pretended to be the shooting victims.

CNN's Reza Sayah contributed to this report.