Mayor Bloomberg yesterday joined the list of politicians demanding the Russian government withdraw diplomatic immunity for an attache who hit a police officer with his car while allegedly driving drunk on Saturday night.
The head of the New York City Commission for the United Nations, Consular Corps and Protocol, Marjorie Tiven, on Monday sent a letter asking the American ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, to put pressure on the Russian Consulate to withdraw the attache's immunity.
Mr. Bloomberg said he supported Ms. Tiven, who is his sister.
"Fortunately, the police officer that was struck was not seriously injured," Mr. Bloomberg said. "I think my sister happens to be right on this one. Whether anybody will listen to her, I don't know. I listen to her all the time."
The officer spent a day in the hospital. His knee injury is healing, police said yesterday.
The attache, Ilya Morozov, 28, allegedly swerved around orange cones and clipped an officer from the New York Police Department's 3rd District highway unit as he attempted to drive onto a closed section of the FDR Drive from 108th Street, police said. When officers saw he had diplomatic license plates, they realized they could not arrest him, despite smelling alcohol on his breath, police said. They were also unable to administer a Breathalyzer test because he has immunity.
He was instead given seven summonses for driving while impaired with alcohol, improper entrance from a controlled highway, failure to comply with a lawful order by a police officer, and other charges. Rep. Anthony Weiner, a Democrat of Queens, also wrote a letter regarding the case. He asked Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, to either "permit Mr. Morozov to face a trial or send him home."
"The crimes Mr. Morozov is accused of committing are very serious and without his diplomatic immunity he would be facing jail time and fines," Mr. Weiner wrote.
Diplomatic immunity was established under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961. The agreement was made so that diplomats could perform their "legitimate duties" without fear of prosecution, not so they could break the laws of the host state, the former ambassador of Pakistan to Morocco, S. Azmat Hassan, said. Mr. Hassan is a senior professor at the Whitehead School of Diplomacy in New Jersey.
"On the contrary, foreign diplomats, as guests of the host country, should be careful to observe all laws of the host state punctiliously," he said.
If a diplomat breaks a law there are two options. The diplomat's home country can waive immunity, as in the case of a former deputy ambassador of Georgia to America, Gueorgui Makharadze, who was prosecuted under American law for causing a car accident that killed a 16-year-old girl. He was sentenced to seven to 21 years in prison, but had his sentence commuted back to Georgia after serving three years in an American prison.
Also, the State Department can designate a diplomat as a persona non grata in America. The sending country is then obliged to bring the diplomat home, Mr. Hassan said. In most cases, though, "It is up to the sending state of the diplomat to take appropriate action against the diplomat after reviewing the incident," he said.
A spokeswoman for the Russian Mission to the United Nations, Maria Zakharova, said the consulate had received official notification of the request for the Russian government to waive Mr. Morozov's immunity only yesterday afternoon. The notification came in the form of a diplomatic note from the American Mission to the United Nations, she said.
Ms. Zakharova said the mission had no official comment on the charges, but she did have something to say about the reaction of local politicians. "I just wonder, is it a normal procedure here when official documents go through the press first?" she said. "They have time for holding press conferences, making comments, giving statements, giving interviews, but they didn't have time to inform officials."
An embassy source told The New York Sun on Monday that it was "highly unlikely" the Russian government would waive Mr. Morozov's immunity.
Mr. Morozov has been working at the mission for about a year, Ms. Zakharova said. According to a United Nations Web site from November last year, he is an election officer who deals with Sudan, Ethiopia-Eritrea, and Somalia.
A deputy NYPD commissioner, Paul Browne, said Mr. Morozov would have been arrested if he didn't have diplomatic immunity, but this isn't the first time NYPD officers have clashed with diplomats protected by international law.
A police officer was punched during a 1997 dispute over a parking ticket with two ranking diplomats, one from Russia and the other from Belarus. According to press accounts, the men were drunk and angry about a ticket for parking too near a hydrant. Russian officials refused to let their diplomat, a first secretary, be prosecuted under American law, but he was eventually sent back to Russia.