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Indian diplomat whose arrest and strip-search in NYC drew protests is indicted again

By Dominique Debucquoy-Dodley, CNN
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Mon March 17, 2014
Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade faces arrest if she returns to the U.S., federal prosecutors said.
Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade faces arrest if she returns to the U.S., federal prosecutors said.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Devyani Khobragade is indicted on visa fraud and false statement charges
  • Diplomat faces arrest if she returns to the United States
  • Indictment comes days after court dismisses the original indictment against her
  • Diplomatic immunity is key defense in Khobragade's case

New York (CNN) -- The Indian diplomat whose arrest sparked a diplomatic row with India has again been indicted by the federal government and faces arrest if she returns to the United States, federal prosecutors said Friday.

Devyani Khobragade faces one count of visa fraud and one count of making false statements for allegedly lying on a visa application about how much she paid her housekeeper, according to the indictment filed in a Manhattan federal court Friday.

An arrest warrant also was issued, said Jerika Richardson, spokeswoman for the United States attorney's office for the Southern District of New York.

The fresh indictment comes just days after the original indictment against Khobragade was dismissed by a federal judge who agreed with her lawyers' assertion that she was protected under diplomatic immunity at the time of the first indictment.

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Officials: Indian diplomat gets immunity

Federal prosecutors signaled Monday that a new indictment was likely.

Khobragade, who left the United States in January, now works for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi.

Her attorney, Daniel Arshack, declined comment Friday. "The government of India will respond in due course," he said in a statement.

She was originally arrested and strip-searched by federal agents in New York City in December 2013. On January 9, a federal grand jury indicted her on one count of visa fraud and one count of making false statements, the same charges she now faces.

Khobragade filed a motion to dismiss the charges, claiming she was "cloaked in diplomatic immunity at the time of her arrest," according to court documents.

A federal judge agreed on Monday, ruling that Khobragade was "appointed a Counselor to the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations, a position that cloaked her with full diplomatic immunity," according to court documents. She was appointed to that position on January 8, one day before her first indictment.

"Even if Khobragade had no immunity at the time of her arrest and has none now, her acquisition of immunity during the pendency of proceedings mandates dismissal," U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin wrote.

"The government may not proceed on an indictment obtained when Khobragade was immune from the jurisdiction of the court," Scheindlin ruled.

Arshack on Monday said Khobragade was pleased "the rule of law has prevailed."

India's external affairs spokesman, Syed Akbaruddin, issued a statement then welcoming the ruling.

Khobragade's case drew international attention, with Indian officials demanding apologies from Washington, and the United States announcing it would withdraw one official from its embassy in New Delhi.

READ: Charges against Indian diplomat who was strip searched dismissed

READ: India asks U.S. to withdraw official from its embassy in New Delhi, source says

READ: Opinion: Did India overreact to diplomat's arrest?

READ: Indian reaction to diplomat's arrest: Mix of Cold War legacy and politics?

CNN's Allison Malloy in New York and Harmeet Singh in New Delhi contributed to this report.

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