Was Raymond Davis Bailed Out By Sharia Law?

March 16, 2011 5:58 am

The diplomatic standoff over CIA contractor Raymond Davis ended on Wednesday, after a Pakistani court acquitted and released Davis, who had been held for almost 2 months after shooting two men dead on the streets of Lahore. But the resolution came only after a deal was reached to pay the victims’ families what the Punjab Law Minister called “blood money” — in accordance with Islamic law.

In other words, Davis may have been bailed out by sharia.“The court first indicted him but the families later told court that they have accepted the blood money and they have pardoned him,” Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told Reuters. “The court acquitted him in the murder case.”

Last month, the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle suggested something like this could be in the works. At the time, Prime Minister Yousif Raza Gilani asked Islamic scholars in Pakistan to help find an Islamic way to solve the Davis question. American officials maintained that Davis had diplomatic immunity and demanded his release. One possible solution, Deutsche Welle reported, was “the invocation of the Qisas and Diyat Ordinance of Shariah Law in which compensation is paid to the family of the victims.”

Sanaullah’s comments on Wednesday suggest that is just what ended up happening. What is Qisas and Diyat? One section of the Qur’an reads as follows, according to the translation on quran.com:

And never is it for a believer to kill a believer except by mistake. And whoever kills a believer by mistake – then the freeing of a believing slave and a compensation payment presented to the deceased’s family [is required] unless they give [up their right as] charity. But if the deceased was from a people at war with you and he was a believer – then [only] the freeing of a believing slave; and if he was from a people with whom you have a treaty – then a compensation payment presented to his family and the freeing of a believing slave. And whoever does not find [one or cannot afford to buy one] – then [instead], a fast for two months consecutively, [seeking] acceptance of repentance from Allah. And Allah is ever Knowing and Wise.

It’s not clear yet from early reports who will be making the payments to the victims’ families.

Sharia, TPM readers will recall, has become the target of many right wing conservatives in the U.S., who see it as a growing alien threat to America. Republicans in a number of states have introduced bills to ban sharia in American courts. Former House speaker, and possible presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich has called for a federal ban.

Read TPM’s past coverage of the Davis case here.

Late update: A lawyer involved in the case told ABC News that $700,000 was paid to each of the victims’ families.

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