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Georgian president to waive envoy's immunity


Diplomat could face homicide charges in U.S.

January 12, 1997
Web posted at: 8:30 a.m. EST (1330 GMT)

TBILISI, Georgia (CNN) -- Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze on Sunday announced he has decided to waive the diplomatic immunity of a high-ranking official involved in a multiple-car accident in the United States that killed a 16-year-old girl.

The president of the Eastern European nation said he was guided by moral principle, not international politics, in making the decision.

"Frankly, it was with grave feelings and a heavy heart that I made the decision regarding the fate of the young and doubtlessly talented diplomat, Georgy Makharadze," he said. "I cannot imagine diplomacy and politics devoid of moral principle."

Makharadze, 35, a minister at the Georgian Embassy in Washington, was involved in a five-car crash on January 3 that killed 16-year-old Brazilian Jovianne Waltrick, who was living in nearby Kensington, Maryland.


The U.S. attorney general's office has said Makharadze was allegedly speeding and intoxicated at the time of the accident and that it believed it had sufficient evidence to prosecute him.

The State Department on Thursday requested that Georgian authorities lift Makharadze's diplomatic immunity so he could stand trial. Also Thursday, the Georgian diplomat attempted to leave the United States but was returned to Washington.

The United States has yet to bring formal charges against Makharadze. But authorities have said action could occur within the week.

Shevardnadze, who won respect in the West for his efforts to end the Cold War as Soviet foreign minister under Mikhail Gorbachev, also called for new rules governing diplomatic immunity.

"Often, the mantle of the state succeeds in protecting the diplomat while the average citizen ... suffers," he said.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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