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ROME â?? Vatican prosecutors on Saturday formally indicted five folks in connection with the theft of confidential documents employed to write two tell-all books describing purported mismanagement in the Roman Catholic Churchâ??s bureaucracy.
The five defendants had been charged with â??illegally procuring and successively revealing data and documents concerning the basic interests of the Holy See and the state,â? the Vatican stated in a statement issued Saturday.
Msgr. Lucio Ãngel Vallejo Balda, and Francesca Chaouqui, a laywoman, wereÂ element of a commission set up by Pope Francis to examine the Vaticanâ??s financial holdings and affairs. They wereÂ also charged with criminal conspiracy, as was MonsignorÂ Vallejo Baldaâ??s assistant, Nicola Maio.
The authors of the two books â?? Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi â?? are accused of â??demanding and exercising pressures, above all on Vallejo Balda, to obtain confidential documents and data, that in component they employed to draft two books,â? according to the statement.Â The books, Mr. Nuzziâ??s â??Merchants in the Templeâ? and Mr. Fittipaldiâ??s â??Avarice,â? were published this month.
Credit Luca Bruno/Connected Press
Disclosing confidential documents has been regarded as a crime in the Vatican because July 2013, soon after a related episode involving the individual butler of Pope Benedict XVI, Paolo Gabriele, who transferred a cache of Vatican letters to Mr. Nuzzi. Mr. Gabriele was imprisoned, attempted and in October 2012 sentenced to 18 months in prison, only to be pardoned by Benedict two months later. Mr. Nuzzi used the papers to write the 2012 ideal-seller â??Sua SantitÃ ,â? or â??His Holiness,â? which detailed infighting and power struggles at the Vatican.
These revelations are deemed to have had an influence on Benedictâ??s decision to resign.
If that scandal, which the media named â??VatiLeaks,â? caught the Vatican unprepared, in the case of the fresh disclosures, officials acted speedily. Monsignor Vallejo Balda and Ms. Chaouqui were arrested a couple of days ahead of the books have been published. He remains detained, and she was released right after cooperating with investigators.
The trial is to commence on Tuesday, and the defendants could face up to eight years in prison if convicted.
Each Mr. Fittipaldi and Mr. Nuzzi say that they have not committed any crimes, but have only accomplished what any investigative journalist would do: uncover and expose corruption and mismanagement in places of power.
They also point out that the documents they divulged have been hardly closely held state secrets, the â??fundamental interests of the Holy See,â? as the Vatican contends in the indictment.
Reached by phone on Saturday afternoon, Mr. Fittipaldi said he was â??incredulousâ? that the Vatican was placing him on trial. â??I didnâ??t reveal anything that put the life of the pope at threat,â? he mentioned. â??Instead, the documents recount the monetary scandals of the curia, crazy investments, greed. It seems strange that they would investigate the teller of these misdeeds rather than those who carried them out.â?
Placing journalists on trial is a chilling message from the Vatican, the writers said. â??They want to show that they are a state with laws that have to be respected even if we donâ??t like them,â? even if they are undemocratic, Mr. Fittipaldi mentioned. â??They want to make an instance of this. Itâ??s going to be more difficult for scandals of this variety to emerge in the future,â? because those who may possibly want to expose corruption and mismanagement will be far more wary.
Mr. Nuzzi remained defiant. â??I am proud to have published information that was not supposed to get out, as any journalist would have completed,â? he stated.Â â??I didnâ??t reveal state secretsâ? involving internal military or security or intelligence issues, â??but instances of dishonesty and abuse, and I will continue to do so.â?
Concerns of conflicting laws are likely to arise if the court convicts the two journalists and then asks for their extradition from Italy to commence serving their sentences, Mr. Fittipaldi said. Italy has laws protecting freedom of the press, even if the Vatican does not. Each men mentioned they were not particular that they would attend the hearings.
Mr. Nuzzi also complained that with the trial date 3 days away, he would not have adequate time to prepare his defense. â??I havenâ??t had access to the charges or investigative acts, I havenâ??t spoken to my Vatican court-appointed lawyer, and I am nonetheless not positive what Iâ??m becoming accused of,â? he stated. In light of the popeâ??s increasing appeals to the faithful to be much more merciful in the holy year that begins on Dec. eight, â??this trial would seem like a contradiction,â? he stated.