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Georgia: Diplomat's Trial Delayed Until October

Washington, 22 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - The lawyer for the Georgian diplomat accused of causing a fatal traffic accident in Washington last winter says the diplomat's trial has been postponed until October.

The trial for Gueorgui Makharadze, the second-ranking envoy at the Georgian Embassy, was to have started yesterday in Washington.

Makharadze is charged with involuntary manslaughter and four counts of aggravated assault. Authorities say he caused a five-car accident that killed a 16-year-old girl and injured several others in January. Police say that Makharadze was drunk and speeding at the time of the crash.

President Eduard Shevardnadze waived Makharadze's diplomatic immunity, saying it was a "moral decision."

Kirby Behre, Makharadze's lawyer, told RFE/RL that during a hearing yesterday that the judge set a new trial date of October 8. He says this will permit both the prosecution and defense extra time to search out expert witnesses to bolster their cases.

The judge also ruled that the prosecution will be able to use as evidence two prior traffic tickets issued to Makharadze, including one for speeding at more than 128 kilometers per hour where the diplomat nearly hit a marked police car.

Behre says he introduced a new motion to dismiss the four charges of aggravated assault against Makharadze, claiming none of the victims was hurt badly enough to warrant such serious charges. Each count carries a maximum of 10 years in prison. Behre says the judge will rule on the motion once the trial is under way.

Makharadze could face up to 70 years in prison if convicted on all charges.