Basil Mkalavishvili

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Basili Mkalavishvili (Georgian: ბასილ მკალავიშვილი) – also known as Vasili Mkalavishvili (Georgian: ვასილ მკალავიშვილი) – is a defrocked Georgian Orthodox priest, the eponymous leader of the Basilist sect (Independent Eparchy of Gldani), in the Republic of Georgia, a Eurasian country that was formerly part of the Soviet bloc. The Basilists are an Old Calendarist group, who broke their association with many other Eastern Orthodox sects over their perceived acceptance of other religious groups. Mkalavishvili is primarily known for having led a series of violent vigilante raids on people and buildings of other religious groups in Tbilisi and other towns in Georgia.

On October 17, 1999, Mkalavishvili led an attack on a meeting of 120 Jehovah's Witnesses at a meeting facility in the Tbilisi suburb of Gldani. Sixteen people required hospital treatment, including a mother of two who suffered permanent damage to one eye after being struck on the head.[1] On March 24, 2001, a group of seven Assemblies of God pastors were meeting with three local missionaries to discuss the building of a Bible school to train local people for the pastorate, and were touring the property that had been set aside for that purpose, when they were set upon by a mob of approximately 100 individuals led by Mkalavishvili.[2] This attack represented the first time Americans had been attacked. One pastor was badly beaten and required surgery to repair a broken hand.[3] He also had led attacks against Baptists, Roman Catholics, and other Eastern Orthodox people whom Mkalavishvili viewed as not holding to the faith as he interpreted it.

Mkalavishvili did not try to hide his attacks, which some believe numbered in the hundreds, but rather openly distributed videos of the attacks taking place. He depended upon witness intimidation and the reluctance of the government to prosecute a well-known religious figure for protection against prosecution. Someone once asked Mkalavishvili why he attacked people in their homes. He replied “That’s not true. We find out where they gather, and then we wait for them outside. When they come out, that’s when we attack them.” He also said that he was thankful to the Georgian police force for their support.

In January 2004, Mikheil Saakashvili became President of the Republic of Georgia in the wake of the bloodless Rose Revolution coup, and brought about a more pro-western stance for the country, and Mkalavishvili lost his official protection. In this atmosphere, prosecutors were more willing to prefer charges; Vasili Mkalavishvili was arrested on March 12, 2004 and charged with three counts in regard to the attacks, which some have said were not nearly enough compared to the number of attacks he carried out by his own admission.[4] On January 31, 2005, Mkalavishvili was sentenced to six years in prison for having carried out the raids. (Petre Ivanidze and Merab Korashinidze, who assisted Mkalavishvili, were given four years and one year in prison, respectively). He had previously been sentenced to a three-month pre-trial detention on June 4, 2003 by a court in Tbilisi.[5]

Mkalavishvili was released in prison in 2007 for health reasons, and kept a low profile, but in 2013 some Georgian Orthodox priests began rallying and sometimes physically attacking opponents over the issue of gay rights. The patriarch of the Georgia Orthodox Church has failed to condemn the attacks, calling them "impolite".[6]