Trial begins for former Russian diplomat accused of killing Ottawa woman

A former Russian diplomat went on trial Tuesday, accused of involuntary manslaughter in the death of an Ottawa lawyer.

The Russian diplomat accused of running down an Ottawa lawyer with his car and killing her, went on trial Tuesday in Moscow.

Andrei Knazyev is charged with involuntary manslaughter and of being drunk when he hit two women on an Ottawa street. Catherine MacLean, 50, was killed, her friend Catherine Dor was seriously injured.

A mid-level diplomat at the time, Knyazev, 46, was driving in Ottawa on Jan. 27, 2001, when his car hit the two women as they walked on the sidewalk.

He returned to Russia within days and lost his job the next month.

Prosecutors may have a difficult time proving Knazyev had been drinking. After the crash, he refused a breathalizer test, citing diplomatic immunity.

Since then, two Russian embassy officials have provided written testimony, saying Knazyev appeared to be drunk. But neither official was present as the trial began.

Knazyev expressed his condolences to the victims' families, but told the court he wasn't guilty of the charges. He said he wasn't drunk at the time of the crash and he claimed he refused the breathalizer test because he was afraid of entrapment. He blamed the accident on poor driving conditions, and insisted the women had been walking on the road.

The Ottawa police officer who led the investigation contradicted that statement. William Murrell said the women had been on the sidewalk.

Knazyev faces five years in prison and a three-year suspension of his driver's licence. Under Canadian law, he would have faced a 20-year prison sentence.

The husband of Catherine Dor and the brother of Catherine MacLean have traveled to Moscow for the trial. They have the right to ask questions in court, but there was a translation problem Tuesday and they appeared to have trouble following the proceedings.