During a court hearing of the ‘Cyanide case’ on May 19th, Judge Besik Bugianishvili of Tbilisi City Court made a decision that the case would be heard in an entirely closed court, without the press.
In February 2017, Archpriest Giorgi Mamaladze, a high-ranking clergymen in the Georgian Orthodox Church, was arrested for allegedly plotting to poison the secretary and advisor of Patriarch Ilia, in a case which was dubbed ‘the Cyanide case.’
The Prosecutor’s Office demanded for the closed court. They said the evidence in the case includes audio, video, and written materials concerning Archpriest Mamaladze’s private life, including ‘intimate’ details, as well as the private lives of others.
After the closed court decision was announced, Archpriest Mamaladze left the courtroom in a sign of protest together with his lawyers, Tbilisi City Court said in an official statement. The Criminal Procedural Code does not allow for a defendant or his/her lawyers to walk out of the courtroom. According to the Tbilisi City Court statement, Mamaladze’s lawyers argued with the judges; they were asked by the court to have patience, but after continuing to disobey the judges’ calls, all three defence lawyers were expelled from the courtroom.
The The City Court statement also says that in the next hearing, Mamaladze will be defended by a state-provided lawyer. The next hearing is scheduled to take place at 11:00 on May 30th. If Archpriest Mamaladze is not present for what are considered invalid reasons, then the procedures will take place without him.
Prosecutor Jarji Tsiklauri commented earlier in the day that Mamaladze’s lawyers may not be able to defend their client anymore because of many procedural violations. Tsiklauri says the defence lawyers’ main aim was to create a spectacle.
Judge Besik Bugianishvili also presided over the 2014-2015 Cables Case, when high-ranking employees of the Ministry of Defence were given a seven-year prison sentence for allegedly making a tender sham for laying fiber-optic cables.
The Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia released an interim report on March 8th of their investigation of the ‘Cyanide case,’ including audio and video footage. The Prosecutor’s Office believes that the main suspect, Archpriest Mamaladze, “is trying to present himself as the victim and avoid the anticipated heavy punishment,” they said in a statement.