The archpriest accused of plotting to poison a ‘high ranking member’ of Georgia’s Orthodox Church walked out of court in protest on 19 May, after Tbilisi City Court decided to close hearings into his case to the public.
After Archpriest Giorgi Mamaladze left the courtroom, the presiding judge postponed the hearing until 30 May. The judge had approved a request from the Prosecutor’s Office to close the hearings, as evidence in the case included private details of many individuals.
Local civil rights group the Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association (GYLA) said that closing of court sessions was unjustifiable. According to the GYLA, the court could have at least closed the sessions only partly, because of the high level of public interest in the case.
The GYLA also claims that Mamaladze’s presumption of innocence has been violated.
Giorgi Mamaladze was arrested on 10 February on suspicion of planning to commit murder, as he was about to board a flight to Berlin, where the head of the church, Patriarch Ilia II, was receiving treatment.
According to Mamaladze, he was detained in a car at Tbilisi International Airport ‘in violation of his rights’, which the Prosecutor’s Office denies.
The identity of Mamaladze’s alleged target was revealed to be the Patriarch’s secretary, Shorena Tetruashvili; police say he was arrested in possession of cyanide. If found guilty, he faces up to 20 years in prison. Tetruashvili has been accused by several high ranking members of the clergy of running a ‘shadow government’ in the Church.
Mamaladze against the lawyer of the Patriarchate
Patriarchate Lawyer Edisher Karchava has spoken out against Mamaladze, claiming on TV show Aktsentebi that he was involved in money-laundering, and was planning to transfer €50 million to a subsidiary company created in Spain. ‘The transaction would involve Georgia’s Orthodox Church and damage the image of the Patriarchate and the state’, Karchava said.
Mamaladze’s lawyer Mikheil Ramishvili announced on 22 May that they would appeal to the court against the Patriarchate’s lawyer ‘for slander’.
Mamaladze denies all accusations against him, and claims that it was Tetruashvili herself who asked him to buy cyanide, which he did not get hold of. He claims that the poisonous substance was planted in his luggage.
Some prominent religious figures have suggested that his detention could be an attempt to distract people from corruption within the Church.
[Read on OC Media - Poison plot reveals conflicting camps in Georgia’s Orthodox Church]