Georgia’s church poisoning case still a mystery
TBILISI, DFWatch–Breaking an earlier promise, Georgia’s top prosecutor did not release new evidence about an alleged assassination attempt in the Georgian Orthodox Church upon the return of the patriarch, leaving the public in the dark and the case shrouded in mystery.
The main suspect, arch priest Giorgi Mamaladze, spent some time in hospital after fainting in his cell by was Wednesday transferred back to prison. He remains silent. His attorneys say he will give testimony after meeting with either the patriarch or someone from the Synod, a top authority in the church, which consists of high ranking priests, bishops, archbishops and metropolitans.
However, both the synod and the patriarch refused to meet Mamaladze, who maintains his innocence.
Mamaladze holds several senior positions in the Church, including a position as deputy head of the property department and head of St Ioakime and Ana Hospital in Tbilisi, which belongs to the Patriarchate, the governing body of the Church. Before his arrest, he was close to Ilia II personally and regarded him as his mentor.
The court placed Mamaladze in two months’ pre-trial detention but it is not clear what he is accused of. The Prosecutor General’s Office has made several confusing statements and for several days it was believed that he was accused of trying to poison the patriarch. However, later his attorneys clarified that he was accused of murder attempt against Shorena Tetruashvili, the patriarch’s personal secretary, who is believed to hold a strong sway over the Patriarchate and even the Synod.
Mamaladze was arrested at Tbilisi airport as he was trying to leave for Berlin. The police discovered cyanide in his luggage. The POG claims it possesses secret audio recordings that confirm the archpriest’s guilt, but these have not been made public.
Upon the patriarch’s return many high ranking state officials paid visits to his residence in the Patriarchate, including Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, President Giorgi Margvelashvili and even Chief Prosecutor Irakli Shotadze.
Yesterday, it became known that investigators played the recordings to high ranking clerics. The latter have chosen to keep silent on the issue, except Meupe Petre Tsaava, Chkondidi Mitropolitan, who has insisted that Mamaladze is innocent.
It is believed that these events are reflection of fierce infighting within the church, which has remained an extremely closed institution despite its popularity among Georgians.