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Canadian on trial for car crash

A Canadian accused of driving without a license and causing the death of a passenger went on trial in Shanghai yesterday.

Nathaniel Perez, 39, a deputy general manager of a Hong Kong company in the city, was driving home on the night of August 10 last year when his car was involved in a collision with a truck.

He was returning to the city from Suzhou in neighboring Jiangsu Province and he had offered to drive the car though he didn't have a current Chinese license because his friend, Frenchman Alex Akhavan, had been drinking, prosecutors said.

He was driving at 120km/h on the Qingpu part of the A9 Expressway when his car was in collision with a truck traveling in the same direction.

The car was crushed under the truck and Akhavan, who was sitting beside the driver, died from head injuries.

Prosecutors at Shanghai No. 2 Intermediate People's Court suggested he serve a maximum sentence of three years.

Perez asked the court to exempt him from criminal punishment. He said the truck had changed lanes suddenly when he was trying to pass and this had caused the accident. He said he had 20 years' driving experience and had a Canadian driving license. Even though his Chinese driving license was invalid when the accident took place, he was a good driver, Perez said.

His lawyer said traffic police had neglected to see that marks on the road proved the truck had changed lanes.

The police said Perez held an invalid Chinese driving license which had been issued in June 2006 and decided he should bear the major responsibility for the accident. The truck driver had a lesser responsibility because the rear lights of the truck were not working.

His lawyer said Perez had been very upset about the accident and had had to miss the funeral of a family member because he was not allowed to leave China before the case was settled. Akhavan's family had forgiven him, the court was told.

The court asked Perez to provide more evidence to support his application to be exempted from a penalty.


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