Poison Scandal Rocks Georgian Church As Priest Arrested For Assassination Attempt On Patriarch's Aide
A priest has been accused of trying to poison the Georgian Orthodox Patriarch's personal secretary.
Archpriest Giorgi Mamaladze was arrested trying to carry cyanide into Berlin where his superior Patriarch Ilia II was undergoing medical treatment, prosecutors said in a report on Thursday.
The target was Shorena Tetruashvili, the Patriarch's secretary, the report claimed, according to RFERL. She was there helping Patriach Ilia recover from gall bladder surgery on February 13.
Mamaladze was arrested on February 10 at Tbilisi International Airport with cyanide in his luggage. Prosecutors allege that he believed his path to power within the Church would be clear without Tetruashvili.
Key witness Irakli Mamaladze alleges he was contacted by the cleric asking for potassium cyanide in exchange for a 'good' work position.
Despite sharing a name the two Georgian men are not thought to be related.
Irakli notified authorities after being contacted by the archpriest and went on to secretly record the pair's meetings.
In the end Irakli never sold Mamaladze the poison, the prosecutors report claimed, as he was in a rush and found it elsewhere.
'Audio and video recordings confirmed that Giorgi Mamaladze intended to buy cyanide and use it against a human being,' the Prosecutor's Office said.
It added Mamaladze failed to provide 'credible answers' to 'significant' questions and some things he said were in 'direct contradiction' with the evidence.
But Mamaladze's lawyers denied the allegations saying the case against him has been fabricated.
'The Prosecutor's Office has no evidence on buying cyanide by Giorgi Mamaladze or who the seller was,' his lawyer Giorgi Pantsulaia told Interpress news. 'This information is the maximum the agency can reach and it has fabricated the recordings as it wanted.'
Mamaladze is director general of the Georgian Patriarchate's St Joachim and Ana Medical Centre, and also serves as deputy head of the Patriarchate's property management service.
He has been formally charged with attempted murder and has pleaded not guilty.
If convicted Mamaldze faces a prison sentence of between seven and 15 years.
The Georgian Orthodox Church counts around 80 per cent of the country's 4.5 million population among its members and is notably conservative. It withdrew from the Pan-Orthodox Council last year because it believed the preparatory documents gave too much away to non-Orthodox Churches, later repudiating the Council and its decisions.
Patriarch Ilia has led the Church since 1977 and is credited with overseeing a major revival after Georgian regained its independence after the collapse of the former Soviet Union. He has suffered ill-health recently.