TBILISI -- The leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church has returned to Georgia as controversy swirls over the arrest of an archpriest who authorities say was trying to carry cyanide to Germany, where the patriarch was undergoing medical treatment.
Upon arrival at the Tbilisi airport on February 20, Patriarch Ilia II said the church leadership will study the case of Archpriest Giorgi Mamaladze together with state authorities.
He said that "everything will end peacefully."
Chief Prosecutor Irakli Shotadze said on February 13 that Mamaladze had been arrested on February 10 as he boarded a plane to Berlin, where the patriarch was awaiting a gallbladder operation.
Shotadze said cyanide was found in Mamaladze's luggage, adding that the archpriest was arrested on suspicion of planning to "murder a high-ranking cleric."
He did not name Mamaladze's alleged target, but said that the chief of the Special Service for State Guards, Anzor Chubinidze, had been sent to Berlin "to protect the security of the Georgian patriarch."
Georgian authorities have released few details since then, saying they would do so after Ilia's return to the South Caucasus country.
Ilia, 84, has led the Church since 1977 and wields significant influence on social and political life in the predominantly Orthodox Christian former Soviet republic of 4.9 million.
The patriarch, who has suffered health problems in recent years, underwent successful gallbladder surgery in Berlin on February 13, church officials said.