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Pakistani judge delays hearing for jailed U.S. diplomat

By Reza Sayah, CNN
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U.S. citizen held in Pakistan
  • NEW: Joint Chiefs of Staff chair says the incident has made the U.S. unpopular in Pakistan
  • Consulate employee Raymond Davis has been jailed since the January 27 shooting
  • The State Department says the man has diplomatic immunity
  • The Foreign Ministry is given three weeks to respond to questions about Davis' diplomatic immunity

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- A Pakistani judge Thursday postponed until March 14 a hearing for a jailed American diplomat accused of shooting and killing two men in January, a government official said.

Thursday's hearing was delayed after the Foreign Ministry asked that it be given three weeks to respond to questions from the Lahore High Court about whether Raymond Davis is entitled to diplomatic immunity, according to Khawaja Haris, a senior government attorney.

Davis was not in court and neither was his lawyer nor any representative from the U.S. Embassy, Haris said.

Last week, a Pakistani court ordered Davis to remain in custody for 14 more days. Another hearing on a separate issue will be held on the case later this month. Davis' lawyer has filed a petition, challenging the court's jurisdiction over the case. A judge will hear arguments on February 25.

Pakistan continues to hold U.S. diplomat
  • Raymond Davis
  • Pakistan

Davis' arrest has strained relations between the United States and Pakistan, a key ally in the war against al Qaeda and the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan, and many Pakistanis are outraged by the incident. During several protests earlier this month, hard-line Pakistani clerics condemned the

shootings and demanded the government not release Davis to the U.S. government.

U.S. military assistance during the recent devastating floods in Pakistan had boosted public opinion toward the United States, U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington Thursday.

But "you have an incident like the one we are going through right now and our popularity is back down in very small numbers," Mullen told lawmakers.

There have been improved relations between U.S. and Pakistani military leaders, Mullen said, and both he and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates have praised Pakistani offenses against insurgents.

"But on the political side, the economic side, at least from my perspective, it looks worse than it has in a long time," the Joint Chiefs chairman said.

Davis said he was attacked by two men as he drove through a busy Lahore neighborhood January 27, according to the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan.

Lahore Police Chief Aslam Tareen has rejected Davis' claim that he shot the men in self-defense, telling reporters, "It was clear-cut murder."

Tareen acknowledged the two men were armed and that one of them pointed his gun at Davis. However, he said, the man didn't shoot, because "all the bullets were in their chamber."

A police report submitted in court appears to contradict that assertion, saying that the chambers of both the victims' pistols were empty.

The report cites witnesses as saying Davis first fired at the victims from inside his car, then stepped out and fired twice at the back of one of the victims.

On Wednesday, a U.S. official who has seen the first report from the Lahore police following the shooting incident said the report indicates it was an attempted robbery.

According to the official, who spoke on condition of not being identified, the initial police report mentions that two Pakistanis were robbed earlier in the day by the two men killed in the Davis shootings. In addition, the U.S. official said, the cell phones of the robbery victims were found on

the bodies of the two men who were shot, and the robbery victims provided statements implicating the two dead men. A senior U.S. State Department official also confirmed the details about the earlier robbery victims mentioned in the police report.

The U.S. official also said Davis shot only from inside his vehicle.

Davis has been detained since the incident, an incarceration U.S. officials call illegal.

He is a contractor for the group Hyperion Protective Consultants LLC, and was attached to the U.S. Embassy contingent in Pakistan as a "technical and administrative official," according to American officials, who say he falls under the label of "diplomat."

Under international agreements, people carrying diplomatic passports are granted diplomatic immunity, the State Department says, and Davis was carrying such a passport.

The United States says Davis was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad but was working at the U.S. Consulate in Lahore at the time of the shootings.

CNN's Charley Keyes and Journalist Nasir Habib contributed to this report.