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Georgian diplomat ordered to remain in United States

January 10, 1997
Web posted at: 9:00 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The high-ranking Georgian diplomat suspected of driving drunk in a high-speed car accident that killed a 16-year-old girl was ordered by his government Friday to remain in the United States pending the outcome of the investigation.

Gueogui Makharadze, Georgia's No. 2 diplomat in Washington, had received orders to return home. But Eduard Shevardnadze, president of the former Soviet republic, overturned those instructions Friday and said he was prepared to waive the envoy's diplomatic immunity.

"The president of Georgia reaffirms his concerns over the car accident caused by the Georgian diplomat which resulted in the loss of human life," Shervardnadze's office said in a statement.

Makharadze "shall remain in the United States until the completion of the investigatory and legal procedures, unless a different agreement between the two governments is reached."

Meanwhile, a senior U.S. official told CNN that Washington- area police had stopped Makhardze on suspicion of speeding several times before the January 4 accident near Embassy Row that claimed the life of Jovianne Waltrick of Kensington, Maryland.

wreck

Police have said they believe Makharadze's car was traveling as fast as 80 mph when it triggered the multi-vehicle accident that killed Waltrick. They suspected the crash was alcohol-related, but they did not administer Breathalyzer or blood-alcohol tests because of Makharadze's diplomatic immunity.

Shevardnadze, the former Soviet foreign minister, directed Makharadze to remain in the United States after receiving a personal appeal from U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher.

The Georgian Embassy in Washington, however, issued a statement defending its earlier decision to recall Makharadze, but said Shevardnadze bowed to the "deep concerns" of Christopher and "in the interest of U.S.- Georgian relations and on moral and ethical grounds."

"On a personal level, the Georgian government has extended its sincerest condolences to the family of Jovianne Waltrick," the statement said. "It had paid the expenses of her funeral, and is endeavoring to assist her family in obtaining a measure of compensation for their inconsolable loss."

Makharadze's lawyers said in a statement that their client was an "unwitting political pawn" who "has never had a brush with the law."

Lawyers Paul Perito and Kirby Behre said Makharadze's rights had been violated by "the circus-like atmosphere" surrounding the highly publicized case.

 
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