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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Immunity Revocation Defended

TBILISI, Georgia -- President Eduard Shevardnadze on Monday defended his decision to waive immunity for a Georgian diplomat sentenced to seven to 21 years for the drunk driving death of a teenage girl in Washington.

"The Georgian government has done the right and fair thing,'' Shevardnadze said in a regular radio address. "We did what our conscience urged us to do.''

Gueorgui Makharadze, 36, who was sentenced last Friday, had pleaded guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter and four counts of aggravated assault. The sentence, which was considered harsh when compared to similar cases, was based in part on Makharadze's prior brushes with the law, the U.S. judge said.

But Shevardnadze said, "I don't think that a Georgian court would have handed a more liberal sentence for such a crime.''

Makharadze, the second-ranking officer in Georgia's embassy in Washington, crashed into a line of cars at a busy downtown intersection Jan. 3, killing 16-year-old Joviane Waltrick.

Makharadze could have been shielded from prosecution because of his diplomatic status. But Shevardnadze decided to waive his diplomatic immunity, saying he did not want to damage relations with the United States.

When Makharadze pleaded guilty last October, Georgian officials expressed hope that U.S. authorities would allow him serve his prison time in Georgia rather than the United States. Shevardnadze didn't mention that on Monday, saying only that Georgia would care for its citizen.