Vat­i­can in­dicts 5 in Vatileaks case

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

MILAN: A Vat­i­can judge yes­ter­day in­dicted five peo­ple, in­clud­ing two jour­nal­ists and a high­rank­ing Vat­i­can mon­signor, in a scan­dal in­volv­ing leaked doc­u­ments that in­formed two books al­leg­ing fi­nan­cial malfea­sance in the Ro­man Catholic church bu­reau­cracy. Two for­mer mem­bers of the pope’s fi­nan­cial re­forms com­mis­sion and a newly iden­ti­fied as­sis­tant were in­dicted on charges of dis­clos­ing confidential Vat­i­can in­for­ma­tion and doc­u­ments, while two jour­nal­ists were in­dicted on a charge of so­lic­it­ing and ex­ert­ing pres­sure to ob­tain the in­for­ma­tion, ac­cord­ing to the in­dict­ments re­leased by the Vat­i­can.

Two of those in­dicted, Mon­signor Lu­cio Vallejo Balda and Francesca Chaouqui, both cho­sen by Pope Fran­cis to help over­haul Vat­i­can fi­nances, were ar­rested by the Vat­i­can ear­lier this month. Balda, who was sec­re­tary of the com­mis­sion, is be­ing held while Chaouqui, a pub­lic re­la­tions spe­cial­ist, was re­leased af­ter agree­ing to co­op­er­ate with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The in­dict­ment also iden­ti­fies for the first time an as­sis­tant to Balda, Ni­cola Maio, as un­der sus­pi­cion.

The three Vat­i­can in­sid­ers also face an ad­di­tional charge of forming a crim­i­nal or­ga­ni­za­tion. Jour­nal­ists Gian­luigi Nuzzi and Emil­iano Fit­ti­paldi both pub­lished books this month cit­ing Vat­i­can doc­u­ments and de­tail­ing waste, mis­man­age­ment and greed at the Vat­i­can and the re­sis­tance Pope Fran­cis faces in try­ing to clean it up. Re­porters with­out Bor­ders this week is­sued a state­ment say­ing the jour­nal­ists “just ex­er­cised their right to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion in the pub­lic in­ter­est and should not be treated as crim­i­nals in a coun­try that sup­pos­edly re­spects me­dia free­dom.”

Nuzzi, who re­fused a Vat­i­can sum­mons for ques­tion­ing over his book, “Mer­chants in the Tem­ple,” was de­fi­ant in a mes­sage on Twit­ter. “You can do what you want but as long as the world ex­ists, there will be jour­nal­ists who re­port un­com­fort­able news,” he wrote. Fit­ti­paldi, au­thor of “Avarice,” ap­peared for ques­tion­ing but re­fused to give any an­swers, cit­ing Ital­ian law on pro­tect­ing sources. “This is not a trial against me, to­day the Vat­i­can is putting on trial the free­dom of the press,” he said in a mes­sage on Face­book. If the Vat­i­can tri­bunal ul­ti­mately con­victs the two au­thors, it will come down to a po­lit­i­cal ques­tion as to whether the Holy See will re­quest their ex­tra­di­tion from Italy - and whether Italy will oblige. Leak­ing Vat­i­can doc­u­ments car­ries a pos­si­ble sen­tence of six months to two years in prison and a 2,000 euro ($2,100) fine un­der a Vat­i­can law en­acted af­ter an ear­lier scan­dal dur­ing Bene­dict XVI’s pa­pacy. If it is de­ter­mined that the leaks harmed the Vat­i­can’s fun­da­men­tal in­ter­ests, the sen­tence can be raised to eight years in prison. The Vat­i­can crim­i­nal code ap­plies the sanc­tions whether or not the crimes oc­cur within Vat­i­can City, and no mat­ter whether the of­fender is a cit­i­zen of the city-state. — AP

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