India police lodge case against Israeli diplomats over scuffle at airport

NEW DELHI (AFP) - The Indian police have lodged a criminal case against three Israeli diplomats for allegedly abusing and injuring an airport immigration official, despite them enjoying diplomatic immunity, an officer said Monday.

A scuffle broke out late on Saturday when the consular officials were clearing immigration at New Delhi airport to catch a flight to Kathmandu, the police deputy commissioner in charge of airport security said.

"They kept on arguing with the Indian official at the immigration assistance counter. Once their papers were cleared, they verbally abused the official and when he objected, they pounced on him," Mr M. I. Haider told AFP.

According to local media reports, the diplomats were angry over delays in clearing immigration. The trio were not arrested over the incident since they have diplomatic immunity but the police have proceeded with a case against them. CCTV footage of the incident would be used to assist the case, he added.

The police were obliged to proceed with their investigation despite the diplomatic immunity, with the case to be handed to India's Foreign Ministry before any formal charges are laid, Mr Haider said.

"As per law, we have registered the case. It is for the foreign ministry to follow diplomatic rules and formalities. They can take a call on it."

A Foreign Ministry spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

A press officer at the Israeli embassy in New Delhi said they were still looking into the matter and were unable to comment immediately.

The incident comes after a New York police officer was arrested last week at the same airport when bullets were found in his luggage, a violation of Indian firearms laws.

The police officer has since been released on bail and is currently in India awaiting a court date to resolve the case.

A US lawmaker slammed the officer's detention as "politically motivated" and revenge for the arrest and strip-search of a female Indian diplomat in New York late last year for alleged visa fraud.

That incident sparked outrage in India and sparked a bitter row between the usually friendly countries.

India flatly denied any link between the two arrests, dismissing the suggestions as ridiculous.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.