A senior Georgian Orthodox priest has been jailed for the attempted murder of the secretary of the Church’s leader of 40 years, Patriarch Ilia II.
Archpriest Giorgi Mamaladse received a nine-year sentence from the City Court in Tbilisi for plotting to poison Shorena Tetruashvili, the patriarch's long-serving assistant, in what prosecutors said was an attempt to “gain more power” in the Georgian Church. The priest, who headed the Church’s property management service, as well as a church-owned medical centre, was arrested last February at the capital’s international airport. He was carrying cyanide and a pistol in his luggage and was preparing to board a flight to Berlin, where the 84-year-old patriarch was receiving medical treatment.
Georgian newspapers said the case relied on evidence from a journalist with intelligence links, who had secretly recorded the 31-year-old priest requesting help in obtaining the poison.
The priest's defence lawyer insisted Giorgi Mamaladse had not received a fair trial and was ready to take his appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. “Violations during the investigation affected the court hearing and prevented the defendant and his lawyers from mounting a proper defence,” said Giorgi Pantsulaya. “The fact that the trial was totally closed also denied the public the possibility of monitoring the court hearings.”
The Orthodox Church claims the loyalty of four-fifths of the 4.9 million inhabitants of Georgia, situated between Russia and Turkey, whose 60,000-member Catholic Church has often complained of discrimination. Supporters of Archpriest Mamaladse, who included a senior Orthodox metropolitan, Petre Tsaava, told newspapers that Shorena Tetruashvili had wielded strong influence over Patriarch Ilia who has been in office since 1977, and had created a “shadow government” in the Church.
Georgia's prime minster, Giorgi Kvirikshvili, said the alleged plot had “shaken the country”, and praised investigators after the priest’s arrest for preventing “a crime against the state and perfidious attack on our Church”.
PICTURE: The priest was jailed for the attempted murder of Patriarch Ilia II's assistant. Ilia II, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, is pictured with the Pope at the Patriarchate in Tbilisi, Georgia on 30 September, 2016