Court upholds conviction of archpriest in church poison plot
The Tbilisi Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction of an archpriest for plotting to murder the secretary-referent of the head of Georgia’s Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II.
The Court announced the decision on 13 February, leaving archpriest Giorgi Mamaladze in prison. The defence say they will appeal to the Georgia’s Supreme Court.
Mamaladze was convicted in September and sentenced to nine years in prison. He was arrested last February on suspicion of planning to commit murder, as he was about to board a flight to Berlin, where Patriarch Ilia II was receiving treatment.
After Georgia’s Prosecutor’s Office announced that the target had been a ‘high-ranking’ member of the Church, there was widespread media speculation that Patriarch Ilia II was the target.
The Prosecutor’s Office soon refuted this, claiming Mamaladze’s target was Shorena Tetruashvili, the Patriarch’s secretary-referent. Tetruashvili had accompanied Ilia II in Germany.
As the case was classified ‘top secret’, court sittings were closed, and lawyers and prosecutors were forbidden from disclosing any details.
The charges against Mamaladze were changed several times, as he was first charged with ‘plotting a murder with mercenary purposes’ and illegally buying and keeping a firearm. He was finally convicted of plotting to commit premeditated murder, and buying and keeping a firearm.
Tbilisi-based rights group the Human Rights Centre has denounced the judgement, and along with the Public Defender criticised the court’s decision to close the trial to the public, claiming it was not necessary.
Mamaladze insists his innocence and claims it was Shorena Tetruashvili who asked him to purchase cyanide.
Prominent figures in the Church, such as metropolitan Petre Tsaava, have suggested that Mamaladze’s case was an attempt to distract people from corruption within the institution. Tsaava has claims Tetruashvili has fostered a ‘shadow government’ within the Church, referring to her as the ‘Grey Cardinal’.
Tetruashvili, who usually remains out of the public eye, has denied both claims.