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Vatileaks trial: Holy See defends its legal system as Parolin set to be called as witness

07 December 2015 | by Christopher Lamb in Rome

The Vatican defends its 'fair trial' system

The Vatican offers fair trials including the presumption of innocence and the right to a defence, a spokesman for the Holy See said today. 

Five people, including two journalists, are currently standing trial in the small city state for the leaking and dissemination of documents revealing mismanagement of the Holy See’s finances. 

Today the court ruled that Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Holy See’s Secretary of State, will be called as a witness during the trial, which has been dubbed Vatileaks 2 after the first Vatileaks saga which saw Benedict XVI's butler reveal private documents from inside the papal apartments.   

The Vatican has come under international criticism for proceeding with a prosecution against journalists, particularly given they are residents of a different country: Italy. 

Questions have also been raised about the city state’s justice system with the five defendants assigned their own Vatican lawyer for the proceedings. 

But in a note issued to journalists this morning Fr Federico Lombardi, the spokesman for the Holy See, said a number of these observations were “inappropriate” and “entirely unjustified”. 

He stressed that the Vatican’s legal procedures were entirely separate from Italy and therefore lawyers practising in the latter country were not about to do so in the city state. 

Fr Lombardi said the Vatican lawyers are professionals who were qualified in the Italian courts but they also had undertaken further training - including a degree in Canon Law - to practise in the tribunals in the Holy See. 

“It is therefore unsurprising that a lawyer able to practise in Italy may not be able to do so in the Vatican City State, just as he or she would not be able to practise in Germany or France,” the note read.  

He stressed that the legal system is characteristic of the most “advanced, contemporary” systems and all judicial roles are selected due to their expertise - all of them are professors in Italian universities. 

Those on trial include those who had been working for the Vatican including Francesca Chaouqui, a financial public relations expert, Mgr Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, former secretary of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs and his assistant Nicola Maio. The two journalists are Gianluigi Nuzzi, who broke the first Vatileaks story, and Emiliano Fittipaldi. 

The documents that were leaked relate to a commission set up by Pope Francis to overhaul Vatican finances and administration. Both Choauqui and Balda sat on that 2013 commission - known as COSEA - and Nuzzi and Fittipaldi have both written books on the leaks. 

All five are being prosecuted under a law instituted by Pope Francis criminalising the leaking for documents and if found guilty could be sentenced from between four and eight years in prison. 

Along with ruling that Cardinal Parolin should give evidence, the court today rejected a petition by Chaouqui's lawyers challenging the Vatican's jurisdiction for the case on the grounds that the alleged crimes took place in Italy. Chaouqui’s team also successfully petitioned the court to agree to an expert to analyse electronic communication between her and Mgr Balda, including email, text and Whatsapp messages. 

However, it declined Mgr Vallejo Balda's lawyers’ request to evaluate his psychological state. 

The trial was then adjourned without a date being set for the next hearing.



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