India Summons US Diplomat Over Comments On Arvind Kejriwal's Arrest

United States’ Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Gloria Berbena leaving the MEA office.

New Delhi:

The government on Wednesday held a 40-minute meeting United States’ Acting Deputy Chief of Mission, who was summoned to the Ministry of External Affairs’ office in Delhi’s South Block.

Details of the meeting have not been released, but this comes a day after a US State Department spokesperson said it is monitoring reports of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest, and called on New Delhi to ensure “a fair and timely legal process” for the jailed Aam Aadmi Party leader.

The US State Department’s comments came, in turn, days after Germany’s Foreign Office stressed that Mr Kejriwal, like any other Indian citizen facing charges, is entitled to a fair and impartial trial.

The Indian government reacted strongly to the comment, summoning the German envoy and labelling the Foreign Office spokesperson’s remark “blatant interference in internal matters”.

“We see such remarks as interfering in our judicial process and undermining the independence of our judiciary,” the External Affairs Ministry said, “Biased assumptions are most unwarranted.”

Asked about India’s protest to Germany, the State Department spokesperson told Reuters, “We refer you to the German Foreign Ministry for comment on their discussions with the Indian government.”

Arvind Kejriwal was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate last week in connection with the alleged liquor policy scam that has roiled his AAP and provoked furious protests from the opposition ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election. Mr Kejriwal was this week sent to jail till March 28.

The Enforcement Directorate believes the now-scrapped liquor policy provided an impossibly high profit margin of 185 per cent for retailers and 12 per cent for wholesalers. Of the latter, six per cent – over Rs 600 crore – were bribes and the money was allegedly used to fund the AAP’s poll campaigns.

Meanwhile, Mr Kejriwal is in the Delhi High Court today to challenge his arrest.

The ED has labelled the Chief Minister as a key conspirator in this case, but Mr Kejriwal and party colleagues arrested in this matter – ex-Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh, and former Health Minister Satyendar Jain – have all denied the charges.

The AAP and the opposition have hit out at the BJP-led central government for using central agencies, like the ED, to target rivals and critics before the general election. The AAP has criticised Mr Kejriwal’s arrest on grounds it was timed to interfere with his plans to campaign for the party.

The BJP has dismissed claims it uses central agencies as described by the opposition.

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