Archpriest accused in Georgian Church ‘poison plot’ stripped of rank
Giorgi Mamaladze, the archpriest accused of plotting to poison a ‘high ranking member’ of Georgia’s Orthodox Church, has been stripped of his rank and the right to accept communion, until his trial is concluded.
The diocese of Batumi and Lazeti, where Mamaladze served, issued a statement saying that Mamaladze faces grave charges, and according to canonical law, when a clergyman faces such charges they are deprived of priesthood until the investigation is over.
‘If they are convicted, then the Holy Synod will decide whether to permanently or temporarily strip them of power’, the statement reads.
Meanwhile the main witness for the prosecution in the case, Irakli Mamaladze, left for Ukraine on 26 June. He said that the reason for leaving was an attempt by opposition-leaning TV channel Rustavi 2 to influence him.
He referred to Rustavi 2’s ‘Kurieri’ news broadcast, which aired on 24 June, a day before he was due in court. Rustavi 2 quoted Irakli Pirtskhalava, a former high ranking police official currently serving 12 years in prison for exceeding official powers. According to Pirtskhalava, Irakli Mamaladze is a spy for the Security Service, responsible for collecting personal information from clergy, journalists, and queer people in Georgia.
‘How is it possible that I worked for LGBT people and the patriarchate at the same time, as a spy, and for journalists as well. Do you remember me disclosing any information to anyone in 34 years? Have I ever given testimony against anyone? What did I ever do to become a target of this attack?’ Irakli Mamaladze told journalists.
He claims that Rustavi 2’s report aimed to force him to change his testimony. On 27 June, Chief Prosecutor Irakli Shotadze said that the Prosecutor’s Office was aware that Mamaladze was planning to leave the country. He denied reports that Mamaladze is asking for political asylum, saying that he he has no information to suggest this. According to local media reports, Mamaladze is now in Ukraine.
Irakli Mamaladze is a journalist who knew Giorgi Mamaladze for many years, and according to the investigation, secretly recorded video and phone calls of Giorgi Mamaladze, which are now being used as evidence in the case.
‘This was a plot to commit murder, and this process is fully reflected in this footage. It is related to the Patriarch and possibly people surrounding him’, Irakli Mamaladze said on Iberia TV in February.
Giorgi Mamaladze was arrested on 10 February on suspicion of planning to commit murder, as he was about to board a flight to Berlin, where the head of the church, Patriarch Ilia II, was receiving treatment.
The identity of Mamaladze’s alleged target was revealed to be the Patriarch’s secretary, Shorena Tetruashvili; police say he was arrested in possession of cyanide. If found guilty, he faces up to 20 years in prison. Tetruashvili has been accused by several high ranking members of the clergy of running a ‘shadow government’ in the Church.