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Vatileaks: Female defendant and priest sentenced while journalists acquitted

07 July 2016 | by Christopher Lamb

The five defendants were being tried under a new law created by Pope Francis to criminalise leaking

The woman at the centre of the Vatileaks trial was today given a ten-month suspended sentence while her priest accomplice is facing 18 months in prison. 

Francesca Chaouqui, who has recently given birth, and Mgr Angelo Lucio Vallejo Balda had both been accused with three others of leaking and disseminating sensitive financial documents of the Holy See. 

Earlier Chaouqui had been described as the “instigator” behind the leak of sensitive financial documents, with prosecutors recommending she be given a sentence of 3 years and nine months. But today judges in a Vatican court gave her a suspended sentence leaving Mgr Lucio Vallejo Balda as the only one of the accused serving time in prison for the offences. 

The trial lasted eight months. The other three defendants who were acquitted were journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi and Mgr Balda's secretary, Nicola Maio. The Vatican has faced widespread criticism for prosecuting journalists.

The five defendants were being tried under a new law created by Pope Francis to criminalise leaking which carries a maximum eight-year prison sentence. He was conscious of the damage done to Benedict XVI’s papacy by the first Vatileaks scandal where his butler revealed confidential papers from inside the apostolic palace. 

Both Chaouqui and Mgr Balda had been appointed by the Pope to serve on a high-level Vatican commission to overhaul finances, but they later leaked sensitive documents from that body to journalists Nuzzi and Fittipaldi who both wrote books based on the material. 

The documents revealed widespread financial mismanagement inside the Holy See, including embarrassing details about the canonisation process, which costs up to €500,000 and the size of cardinals' apartments. 

Mgr Balda, who has been under house arrest, is likely to serve his sentence in one of the handful of the Vatican’s prison cells. It has been speculated, however, that the Pope might pardon him during the year of mercy.

 


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