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UN approves request for accreditation for arrested Indian diplomat

A group supporting domestic workers' rights demonstrate across the street from the Indian Consulate General December 20, 2013 in New York.

The United Nations said Tuesday it had accepted a request from India to issue accreditation to a diplomat in the eye of a legal and diplomatic storm between Delhi and Washington.

The US State Department must approve all changes in diplomatic status of foreign envoys on American soil, and a spokesperson told AFP on Tuesday that the paperwork was "under review".

India's deputy consul general in New York, Devyani Khobragade, was arrested by US authorities on December 12 on suspicion of lying on a visa application for her maid and of underpaying her.

The Delhi government and many ordinary Indians were outraged by her treatment, and Delhi wants to transfer her accreditation to the United Nations in a bid to strengthen her diplomatic immunity.

"The United Nations has received notification to register Ms. Khobragade as a member of the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations," UN spokeswoman Morana Song said.

"We can confirm that the United Nations has processed this request per its standard procedures," she said.

Indian activists from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) shout slogans during a protest near the American Centre in New Delhi on December 21, 2013
Indian activists from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) shout slogans during a protest near the American Centre in New Delhi on December 21, 2013.

As a consular official accredited to the United States, Khobragade has only limited immunity from prosecution and has been charged with visa fraud and making false statements about her maid's salary.

If she is accredited to the UN mission, she will enjoy a higher level of protection and India might find it easier to bring her home.

Her arrest and subsequent treatment -- she was held for 48 hours pending charges and underwent an intimate search on being taken into custody -- triggered a high-level international row.

India responded to the charges -- brought by a New York federal prosecutor -- with diplomatic sanctions, stripping some US envoys to India of special passes that afford travel privileges.

Indian police also removed security barriers regulating traffic around the US embassy in New Delhi, and anti-American street protests erupted.

US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed "regret" for the offense caused but Manhattan's US Attorney Preet Bharara has insisted he acted to protect the rights of Khobragade's Indian maid.

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