Prime Minster Giorgi Kvirikashvili. (Interpressnews.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–Georgians are reacting to the detention of an Orthodox priest whom prosecutors accuse of trying to poison a high church official, widely believed to be the head of the Georgian Church.

The story immediately went viral in Georgia, where the Orthodox Church is the most highly respected institution.

In a statement on Monday Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili commended the effectiveness of the security services, which allowed the nation avoided ‘a terrible disaster.’

“This was a treacherous attack on the Church. An act against our country has been prevented,” Kvirikashvili stated.

Later, President Giorgi Margvelashvili released a statement where he expressed ‘deep concern’ regarding ongoing events.

Speaker of Parliament Irakli Kobakhidze thanked law enforcement agencies for uncovering and preventing a ‘grave crime’.

Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili said after visiting the detainee in prison that the archpriest pleaded not guilty and will continue to fight to reveal the truth.

‘He asks everyone not to give political labels to the case. He also demands security for his family and in turn, I demands his safety to be ensured. The archpriest asks everybody to help him find out the truth,’ Nanuashvili said.

Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association (GYLA) released a statement on Tuesday calling on politicians and representative of the Prosecutor’s Office to observe the presumption of innocence when talking about the case.

“Despite the high public interest and the very high sensitivity of the issue, GYLA considers statements about the accused by the authorities and the Prosecutor General unreasonable. These statement create an impression that the offense is already determined and the participation of the accused in the crime represents a reliable point, but the investigation is underway and the court, the only institution in Georgia which has the right to find someone guilty, has not start yet,” the statement said.

GYLA reports that statements made about archpriest Giorgi Mamaladze violate his presumption of innocence and “promote the strong formation of public opinion against the defendant,” GYLA states.

On February 10, Georgia’s Chief Prosecutor announced the arrest of archpriest Giorgi Mamaladze, who has close ties to Patriarch Ilia II. Mamaladze is accused of trying to board a plane for Berlin with his luggage stashed with poison.

Mamaladze has been formally charged and a court has placed him in pre-trial detention. He pleaded not guilty.

The Chief Prosecutor claims the detainee was planning to poison an unidentified person in ‘the Church’s highest hierarchy’, with cyanide.

It is speculated that his target was Patriarch Ilia II, who was being treated at a hospital in Berlin on Monday, undergoing slight surgery on his bladder.

Mamaladze holds a position as head of a hospital named after Saint Ioakime and Saint Ana, which belongs to the Patriarchy, a ruling body of the Georgian Orthodox Church. He was appointed as a deputy head of the Patriarchate’s Property Management Service about a year ago.