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Church TV head fired amid ‘poison plot’ controversy

11 March 2017
Petre Tsaava (http://exclusivenews.ge)

Amidst the continuing controversy surrounding the ‘poison plot’ in Georgia’s Orthodox Church, the Church's highest governing body, the Holy Synod of Bishops, fired the head of the Patriarchate’s television station, Metropolitan Petre Tsaava on 9 March. Tsaava will remain as head of Chkondidi Eparchy in Western Georgia.

According to the Church’s TV Ertsulovneba, Patriarch Ilia II castigated the clergy during the Synod session for making frequent insulting statements, singling out Metropolitan Tsaava’s statements as ‘especially severe’.

‘It was said on the Holy Synod session that Metropolitan Petre has been violating canonical and ethical standards and his statements are aimed to discrediting several clerics with defamation and unreasonable allegations’, Metropolitan Shio Mujiri of Senaki and Chkhorotsku (western Georgia) said.

Tsaava responded to the Synod’s move right away: ‘as I have always said, I prefer being punished for the truth rather than being acquitted with a lie’, he told journalists. According to him, the main topic discussed during the session was his resignation, whereas he thought there were other more important issues.

Tsaava’s dismissal comes amidst an alleged poison plot in Georgia’s Orthodox church. Giorgi Mamaladze, deputy director of the Church’s property management service and the director of the Church’s St Ioakime and St Ana medical centre, was detained on 10 February on suspicion of planning to commit murder, as he was about to board a flight to Berlin, where the Patriarch was receiving treatment. He is now accused of trying to poison Shorena Tetruashvili, the Patriarch’s secretary-referent.

Tsaava, considered to be a supported of Ilia II’s nephew Dimitri Shiolashvili, was one of the figures accusing Tetruashvili of fostering a shadow government in the Church. He, with several others, claimed that Mamaladze had found some irregularities in Patriarchate’s finances, which he intended to share with Ilia II, but was interrupted by the poison plot. Tsaava hinted that Tetruashvili, a woman who has been gaining strength inside Georgia’s most powerful institution, had her hands in many intrigues, and openly accused her of having ‘unlimited power’ over leading figures in the Church.

[For additional reporting about the opposing factions in the Patriarchate, read OC Media’s full story — Poison plot reveals conflicting camps in Georgia’s Orthodox Church].

The Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia (POG) released more details about Mamaladze on 8 March, only to raise additional questions about the case. In hidden camera footage released by the POG, Mamaladze is seen asking an interlocutor: ‘Is it possible to get cyanide’?

However, it is still unknown whether the POG has any other evidence to ascertain that Mamaladze was planning to poison Shorena Tetruashvili, other than an indirect mention of her in the video. ‘Shorena must be dead’, Mamaladze says. It is still unclear why the POG first announced that the target was a ‘high-ranking cleric’ and later changed the alleged target to Tetruashvili.

Mamaladze at first used his right to remain silent, but is now speaking to law enforcement. His interrogation will continue on 13 March. He denies the accusations.

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