American Trapped In Nightmare

An American relief worker continues his battle Friday to both recuperate from serious injuries and regain his freedom from half a world away, reports CBS News White House Correspondent Bill Plante.

Loren Wille is being held in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, waiting to learn if he must stand trial for homicide after a traffic accident in which his Georgian translator was killed while Wille was at the wheel.

Wille's family believes the only reason he's being held is because former Georgian diplomat Georgi Makharadze, is serving jail time in the United States.

"People were at the scene, trying to interrogate him. They told him then it was payback time," said Margaret Wille, Loren's sister-in-law.

After a night of drinking two years ago, Makharadze had an auto accident in downtown Washington in which a teenage girl was killed.

Under intense pressure, Georgia's president, Eduard Shevardnadze, waived the diplomat's immunity and Makharadze went to trial.

During a recent White House visit, Shevardnadze insisted this case is not linked to Wille's.

"It's absolutely excluded," Shevardnadze said through a translator. "You'll see it when the trial takes place that it will be a fair trial. I cannot interfere with that."

But the Wille family — well aware that Loren is seen by many as a negotiating chip — fears he won't get an impartial trial. Georgia has asked that its diplomat be allowed to return home to serve his sentence. The State Department will say only that it's considering the request.

Margaret, who is headed to Georgia, told CBS This Morning Co-Anchor Thalia Assuras that she's bringing medicine to her brother-in-law and that he needs more medical help.

"Mentally, he's stressed out," Margaret said. "He's looking at a possible seven to 10 years imprisonment in a Georgian system for something that is not his fault. It was a tragic accident and he has to live with this whole thought the rest of his life."

There is a witness who was a passenger in the car and says it wasn't Loren's fault. Also, the family of the woman who died has not wanted to press charges.

"The family has been so good," Margaret said. "They have gone to the government and asked that he be released, the charges be dropped," she said.

Margaret said officials have tried to take Loren out of the hospital and into prison.

"They tried to interrogate him without an attorney there, without translators. They have refused to turn over evidence to our attorneys," Margaret said.

She added Georgian officials are treating him with bias and prejudice and violating his rights.

"He's not receiving the adequate care that he should be getting under the judicial system," Margaret said.
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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