Diplomat accused of hitting wife goes home due to immunity

AP News
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Posted: Nov 04, 2016 4:30 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A diplomat accused of hitting his wife in New York has returned to his home in Germany after his government refused a U.S. request to waive his immunity, the State Department said Friday.

Spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. asked the German government last month to drop its immunity for Joachim Haubrichs. But Toner said Germany rejected the request earlier this week, and Haubrichs and his wife have since left the United States.

"We have confirmed that Mr. Haubrichs has returned to Germany," Toner told The Associated Press.

New York prosecutors believed there was sufficient evidence to convict Haubrichs of misdemeanor. Haubrichs worked at Germany's mission to the United Nations.

The allegations were the latest to entangle the justice system in New York in questions of diplomatic immunity.

In 2012, former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn's lawyers unsuccessfully argued he was immune from a New York hotel maid's sexual assault lawsuit. He said the encounter was consensual; the suit was later settled. Strauss-Kahn didn't pursue an immunity claim in a related criminal case, which was dismissed.

Two years later, India refused to waive immunity for a New York consular official who faced federal charges of lying about her housekeeper's pay to get the woman a visa. Devyani Khobragade, who maintained her innocence, was ordered to leave the country.

Haubrichs was listed as recently as June as an assistant attache at the German mission.

The German Foreign Ministry wouldn't comment on the allegations against him, which were published last week by The New York Post.

Haubrich's wife told police he dragged her into their bedroom Oct. 17 and pushed her into a wall, banging her head. He also hit her in the face and gave her a black eye, according to prosecutors' letter. Haubrich's wife, Henna Johnson, told the Post he'd gotten angry because she was using her cell phone after a 7:30 p.m. cutoff time he'd imposed.

Diplomatic immunity, or giving foreign countries' representatives a shield against legal action, is a centuries-old principle designed to safeguard international relations, and it's codified in modern laws and treaties.

Still, host countries sometimes demand that foreign governments waive immunity in cases when diplomats are accused of crimes. If the request is refused, host countries generally demand that the diplomat leave the country.