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Georgian Prosecutor's Report Accuses Senior Priest in Murder Plot

Patriarch Ilia II wields significant influence on social and political life in the predominantly Orthodox Christian Georgia.

The Georgian Prosecutor's office said on March 8 that a high-profile priest planned to assassinate the Georgian Orthodox patriarch's personal secretary last month in a scandal that has rocked the dominant church in the former Soviet republic.

The prosecutor's office alleged in a report detailing an ongoing investigation that Archpriest Giorgi Mamaladze attempted to transport cyanide to Berlin, where Patriarch Ilia II was undergoing medical treatment in February.

The prosecutor's report alleged that Mamaladze intended to poison Shorena Tetruashvili, a woman who is the patriarch’s secretary.

The 84-year-old Ilia wields significant influence on social and political life in the predominantly Orthodox Christian South Caucasus country of 4.9 million people.

He underwent successful gallbladder surgery in Berlin on February 13.

Mamaladze was arrested on February 17 at Tbilisi International Airport when cyanide was found in his baggage as he attempted to travel to Berlin, where Tetruashvili was aiding the Patriarch after his operation.

The key witness in the case is Irakli Mamaladze, a Georgian man who alleges he was contacted by the cleric to help obtain potassium cyanide in exchange for a "good" work position.

He is not thought to be related to Giorgi Mamaladze.

The prosecutor's report alleged that Giorgi Mamaladze expected to gain power within the church once Tetruashvili was murdered.

The report said Irakli Mamaldze notified authorities after being approached by the archpriest, and secret recordings of meetings between the two were made.

It said Giorgi Mamaladze was in a hurry and eventually found a different source for the poison.

"Audio and video recordings confirmed that Giorgi Mamaladze intended to buy cyanide and use it against a human being," the Prosecutor's Office said.

The Prosecutor's Office said Mamaladze failed to provide "credible answers" to "significant" questions put to him by investigators, while some things he said were in "direct contradiction" with the evidence.

Giorgi Pantsulaia, a lawyer for Giorgi Mamaladze, rejected the allegations. He told Interpressnews on March 8 that the case against his client had been fabricated.

"The Prosecutor's Office has no evidence on buying cyanide by Giorgi Mamaladze or who the seller was," IPN quoted Pantsulaia as saying. "This information is the maximum the agency can reach and it has fabricated the recordings as it wanted."

If convicted of the charges, Mamaladze would face a prison sentence of between seven and 15 years.

With reporting by Interpressnews