Cleric Sentenced to 9 Years for Murder Plot
Father Giorgi Mamaladze, who was arrested in February 2017, charged with planning a murder, has been sentenced to nine years in prison by Tbilisi City Court Judge Besik Bugianishvili.
The Judge has re-qualified the accusation, lifting the charges for mercenary murder and declaring him guilty only for preparing to murder the Georgian Patriarch’s Secretary, Shorena Tetruashvili.
The investigation established that Archpriest Mamaladze, aiming to improve his career prospects, decided to murder Shorena Tetruashvili by means of cyanide.
The cleric was also sentenced to two years imprisonment for illegal purchase and storage of firearms, but under the principle of the concurrent sentencing, this minor penalty was absorbed by the graver one and in total he will spend nine years in prison.
The detained denies all charges and refused to attend the trial.
The lawyers of the archpriest say the judge made an ungrounded decision and they will appeal the verdict in the upper instance, adding that they might take the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg.
“There was no plan to murder…The decision of the judge was shameless and unworthy…If the judge lifted charges for mercenary murder, then what can they say was the possible motive of murder? This is why I claim the verdict was ungrounded,” Mamaladze’s lawyer Giorgi Pantsulaia stated.
The prosecutor of the case, Zviad Gubeladze, said that the investigators suspect the cleric did not act alone.
“The investigators suggest Mamaladze had accomplices,” he said. “An investigation is ongoing in this regard. If certain individuals are identified, they will be charged. At this stage, I will refrain from naming this small circle due to the interests of the investigation”.
The nephew of the Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia, and Batumi and Lazeti Metropolitan, Dimitry, says there are too many questions surrounding the case.
“The cyanide case is too vague. Now I have even greater suspicion that Archpriest Mamaladze did not buy cyanide. The Prosecutor’s Office should show us proof of purchase if they have it,” he stated, adding that he had spoken to the patriarch regarding the issue.
“The Patriarch said clearly that Father Giorgi would not have committed this crime,” he said.
NGO Human Rights Center (HRIDC) does not agree with the verdict given by Tbilisi City Court and says their lawyer was directly involved in the case, defending Mamaladze’s interests.
The HRIDC says that the case was closed to media and the public for six months: in their opinion, unnecessarily.
“The Human Rights Center believes that by closing the trial, the Court helped to reduce the level of transparency of justice and public trust towards the Court. Moreover, when it comes to such high-profile cases, the interest of the public is heightened- as such, we believe the trial should have been open,” the NGO noted, also highlighting that the acquisition of cyanide had yet to be confirmed.
“The right to a fair trial guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights has been violated,” the NGO stressed.
Georgia’s Public Defender, Ucha Nanuashvili released a statement regarding the notorious case, saying a number of violations were observed during the investigation that affected the court hearing and prevented the defendant and his lawyers from enjoying a proper defense.
“Violation of the presumption of innocence and the right to equality of arms from the very first day of the investigation was only the beginning of a number of shortcomings,” the Ombudsman stated.
He added that the investigative agency has not yet obtained any evidence proving the purchase of cyanide. Nor has the person from whom the archpriest allegedly bought cyanide been identified.
“Taking into consideration this context, it was even more unacceptable to fully close the trial, which deprived the public of the possibility to monitor the court hearings. Monitoring made it clear that the full closure of the trial was not necessary given the volume of confidential information in the case,” the statement reads.
Archpriest Mamladze was arrested on February 10 at Tbilisi Airport. The clergyman was detained with cyanide en route to Berlin, where Georgia’s Catholicos-Patriarch was having a gall bladder operation. Shorena Tetruashvili was in the hospital with the Patriarch.
The defense has reiterated many times that the Archpriest is the victim of a group of high-ranking people at the Patriarchate who wanted to remove him from the position of Head of the Property Management Department of the Patriarchate.