Hardline Georgian priest nabbed

A defrocked Orthodox priest who had masterminded several attacks on religious minorities in the former Soviet republic of Georgia was taken by force from a church in a raid by special forces.

    The priest was a critic of President Sakaashvili

    Nearly 150 police took part in the operation on Friday to snatch Vasil Mkalavishvili, who had been excommunicated by the Georgian Orthodox Church in 1996 and was hiding with his supporters in a church in the capital Tbilisi.

      

    The police had to use two military trucks to smash through the metal barriers around the building before spraying tear gas and assaulting with truncheons the renegade priest's band of faithful.

      

    Some 20 people were injured in the operation, including children, and 10 were hospitalised.

     

    Hunger strike

      

    Dozens of Mkalavishvili's supporters then gathered outside the detention centre of the Georgian interior ministry, where the priest is being held, and said they were launching a hunger strike to demand his release.

     

    "Georgia does not exist right now, it is only another US state..."

    Vasil Mkalavishvili

    The clergyman, who had been sentenced by a Tbilisi court in June to three months in jail for destruction of property, was not present for his trial.

      

    Officially he was on a wanted list but the police did not make any effort to arrest him as he was always accompanied by a few dozen supporters ready to defend him.

      

    On Thursday, Mkalavishvili gave a press conference in Tbilisi in which he violently criticized the new pro-Western government in Georgia led by US-educated lawyer Mikhail Sakaashvili.

      

    "Georgia does not exist right now, it is only another US state, whose governor is George Soros," the US billionaire philanthropist, he said, protesting that the government planned to register the Jehovah's Witnessses.

      

    Father Mkalavishvili had admitted in the past that his faithful had on his orders ransacked the premises of a community of Jehovah's Witnessses and burnt bibles of the Baptist Evangelical Church in Tbilisi.

    SOURCE: AFP


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    'We scoured for days without sleeping, just clothes on our backs'

    'We scoured for days without sleeping, just clothes on our backs'

    The Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever to make landfall. Five years on, we revisit this story.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    Daughters of al-Shabab

    Daughters of al-Shabab

    What draws Kenyan women to join al-Shabab and what challenges are they facing when they return to their communities?