Alleged murder plot shakes Georgian Orthodox Church

Cheryl Sanders
February 14, 2017

Georgian police have arrested a priest suspected of plotting to poison a top figure in the Georgian Orthodox Church.

Speaking to reporters, chief prosecutor Irakli Shotadze confirmed the arrest of Mamaladze but refused to be drawn on who the priests intended victim allegedly was.

Prosecutors said cyanide was found in Fr Giorgi Mamaladze's luggage when he was detained at Tblisi airport on Friday, before he could fly to Germany. Authorities haven't identified his alleged target, but Mamaladze was on his way to meet with the church's longtime leader, Patriarch Ilia II, reports the Guardian.

Shotadze said the investigation had started after an acquaintance claimed that Mamaladze had asked him for cyanide in exchange for money and other "illegal benefits".

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.

Shotadze added that the detained official of the Georgian patriarchate had planned to take the poisonous substance to Germany, where Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II is undergoing treatment.

The person involved then tipped off the police and a probe was launched.

The Georgian prime minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, was enthusiastic about the work of the security forces to thwart the plot:"We avoided a huge disaster".

The Chief Prosecutor also said that police searched the archpriest's home and found an unregistered handmade firearm with six cartridges. His surgeon said the procedure was successful and the Patriarch is in good health now.

If archpriest Mamaladze is proven guilty, he faces from 7 to 15 years' imprisonment.

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