Priest Accused of Plotting to Poison 'High Ranking' Member of Georgia's Orthodox Church

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(Photo: YouTube/Screengrab)Deacon Giorgi Mamaladze of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

Deacon Giorgi Mamaladze, a priest in Georgia's Orthodox Church accused of plotting to poison a "high ranking" colleague in February, has been temporarily stripped of his rank and right to take communion, the church said.

A statement from the diocese of Batumi and Lazeti, where Mamaladze served, said the priest will be stripped of his priestly authority until his trial is over according to canonical law.

"If they are convicted, then the Holy Synod will decide whether to permanently or temporarily strip them of power," the church said.

Georgia, a deeply religious nation in Eurasia, boasts that it is the second country to adopt Christianity in the fourth century.

The Guardian reported in February that Mamaladze, who served as director of the property department of the Georgian Orthodox Church, was detained at Tbilisi airport with cyanide in his baggage. He was on his way to Germany to meet with aging Georgian Orthodox patriarch Ilia II who was recovering from gallbladder surgery.

"We avoided a huge disaster. A crime against our country, a perfidious attack on our church, has been prevented," the Georgian prime minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, said at the time.

Mamaladze has since been charged with conspiracy to commit murder and Irakli Mamaladze, a journalist who knew the priest for many years, is the main witness against him.

The investigation into the case shows that the journalist secretly recorded video and phone calls of the priest which is now evidence in the case against him.

"This was a plot to commit murder, and this process is fully reflected in this footage. It is related to the Patriarch and possibly people surrounding him," Irakli Mamaladze said on Iberia TV.

Irakli Mamaladze reportedly left Georgia for the Ukraine on Monday after he was accused of being a spy for Georgia's secret Security Service. Irakli Pirtskhalava, a former high ranking police official imprisoned for exceeding official powers, alleged that Irakli Mamaladze was collecting personal information from clergy, journalists, and gays in Georgia. The accused journalist, however, has disputed the claims, noting that the opposition was trying to influence him to change his testimony against the priest.

"How is it possible that I worked for LGBT people and the patriarchate at the same time, as a spy, and for journalists as well? Do you remember me disclosing any information to anyone in 34 years? Have I ever given testimony against anyone? What did I ever do to become a target of this attack?" Irakli Mamaladze said.

Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, a prominent figure in the Russian Orthodox Church, noted at the time of the priest's arrest that he felt there was a "political subtext" to the apparent attempt to kill Ilia II. He said it could also be an attempt to pressure the powerful Georgian Orthodox Church.

If he is convicted, the priest could face up to 15 years in prison.

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