Lawyers for the New York City police officer detained in India said Saturday that they don't believe his arrest is in retaliation for the indictment of an Indian diplomat in New York last year.
"In my view, Manuel should not be dragged into this 'non-existing' 'diplomatic controversy' as far as his case is concerned,” Officer Manuel Encarnacion's lawyer, Samarjit Pattnaik, wrote in an email to NBC News.
Encarnacion was arrested at an Indian airport on March 11 after three bullets were found in his checked baggage, Pattnaik said.
Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., said India appears to be punishing Encarnacion for the arrest of India's deputy consul, Devyani Khobragade, who was accused of committing visa fraud to hire a housekeeper at an illegal wage in the U.S.
But Pattnaik insists the two cases are not linked.
Encarnacion's arrest "was as per the normal and standard legal procedure under which even Indians are arrested as per law of the country," Pattnaik said, "and there is no reason to suspect foul play by the cops nor is there any reason to suspect any diplomatic involvement in this case."
Encarnacion had been at a firing range in New York before travelling to India to join his wife on vacation, according to his lawyers' statement. Pattnaik said he is "hopeful that the Indian Courts will understand the circumstances under which the bullets were left in his jacket by mistake."
Encarnacion was released on bail and his next hearing is scheduled for April 17, according to the statement.
"Manny is in great spirits and has complete faith in the legal System in India,” Pattnaik added.
NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said Friday that his office is working with the State Department to resolve the case.
Clark Pena, a community activist in East Harlem, N.Y., where Encarnacion works, told NBC New York that the police officer is well respected and a "part of the neighborhood."
"I hope that the elected officials step up to the plate because let's bring Manny back home. The city needs him, the community needs him," Pena said.
— Elisha Fieldstadt
First published April 5 2014, 10:30 AM