By Mubasher Bokhari
LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) - A Pakistani court declined to rule on Monday on whether a CIA contractor held on murder charges has diplomatic immunity, saying a court hearing the murder case would decide.
The ruling by the Lahore High Court is likely to extend a crisis in ties between the United States and Pakistan over contractor Raymond Davis, who is on trial for double murder, and complicate efforts to secure his release.
"The case is in a trial court ... It will decide on his immunity," Chief Justice Ejaz Chaudhry told the court in the eastern city.
Davis, 36, shot dead two Pakistanis in Lahore on January 27. He said he acted in self-defense and the United States says he has diplomatic immunity and should be repatriated.
Pakistan says the courts must decide.
The High Court had been considering whether he had immunity while a criminal court is due to resume hearing the murder charges on Wednesday. If convicted, Davis could face the death penalty.
The case has shaken relations between the United States and Pakistan, a vital ally in the U.S.-led campaign against Taliban militants in Afghanistan.
(Writing by Rebecca Conway; Editing Robert Birsel)