Former Russian diplomat guilty of involuntary manslaughter

Former Russian diplomat guilty of involuntary manslaughter, sentenced to four years.

A former Russian diplomat has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the drunk driving death of a woman in Ottawa.

Andrei Knyazev's verdict came down Tuesday morning in a courtroom in Moscow.

He was convicted in the death of Catherine MacLean, 50, when he drove his car onto the sidewalk of an Ottawa neighbourhood on January 27, 2001. Her friend Catherine Dor, 56, was badly injured in the crash.

After the verdict, Knyazev, 47, was led from the courtroom in handcuffs. He was sentenced to four years in a penal colony, even though he could have received the maximum penalty of five years. Judge Yelena Stashina said he did not receive the maximum sentence because it was his first conviction.

Knyazev's lawyer says he will appeal. "This decision was not a fully correct one," Andrei Pavlov said. "He did not get a fair trial."

Catherine Dor's husband, Philippe, travelled to Moscow for the trial on behalf of his wife. As he left the courtroom, he said he felt the process was fair and extensive, and that neither he nor his wife held any "ill will" against Knyazev.

Knyazev admitted 'responsibility'

Last week, the career diplomat made an emotional plea to the courtroom, acknowledging his responsibility for the crash. He also apologized to the families of the two victims.

Knyazev refused to take a breathalyzer at the scene of the crash, citing diplomatic immunity. Russia refused Canadian requests to waive that right, and Knyazev was expelled from Canada.

The Foreign Ministry fired him when he returned to Russia, and charged him with involuntary manslaughter. Russian and Canadian authorities co-operated in the year-long investigation.

Russian penal colonies are similar to Canadian medium-security institutions, although critics say diseases such as tuberculosis are prevalent, and pose a real health threat to even short-term prisoners.