2012-09-29 17:14:40

Vatican: Trial opens against former Papal butler

(Vatican Radio) – The trial against former Papal butler, Paolo Gabriele and Secretary of State employee Claudio Sciarpelletti opened on Saturday, during which the Vatican Court ruled that the accused will be tried separately on charges of aggravated theft of private documents and aiding and abetting a crime, respectively.

The trial is linked to the leaking of the Holy Father’s personal and private documents to Italian press, which first came to light in March last. Emer McCarthy reports Listen: RealAudioMP3

The opening session was preceded by a consultation in Council Chambers among the three presiding judges that lasted over an hour, during which they discussed pre-trial requests presented by the defense.

46 year-old Gabriele was present at the session. Sciarpelletti was represented by his attorney. Nine of the thirteen witnesses called to testify were present. The Pope’s personal secretary Msgr. Georg Gänswein was among those absent because of prior official commitments. Eight journalists where also present to follow court proceedings.

The trial itself got underway in the small Vatican Courtroom, when President of the Vatican Tribunal, Giuseppe dalla Torre, read the list of charges. Attorneys for the defence then presented their clients pleas.

Sciarpelletti attorney’s Gianluca Benedetti began by filing a “not guilty” plea for his client who was absent – according to the lawyer - due to unspecified "unexpected reasons”. Benedetti noted the lesser gravity of the charge against his client and presented a motion for a separate trial, which was accepted by the Court. This will take place at a later unspecified date.

The judges then proceeded to throw out requests presented by Paolo Gabriele’s defense attorney Cristiana Arru. She had asked the Court to allow as evidence the results of a separate investigation by the Commission of Cardinals, convoked earlier this year by Pope Benedict XVI, to investigate the broader implications of the leaks.

The Court ruled that the results of the investigation were reserved to Pope Benedict and cannot be counted as evidence. Judge dalla Torre emphasized that trial evidence will be solely based on the results of the investigation carried out in Vatican City State by Vatican City State police and prosecutors.

The Court also rejected the pre-trial plea for a ruling on "Sub secreto pontificio"; in short evidence that is subject to Pontifical secret. The Court observed that this is not part of the criminal code of Vatican City State.

Instead the Court confirmed the legality of the installation of cameras near Gabriele’s house by Vatican police and upheld Arru’s request for the removal from the body of evidence of two interrogations of Paolo Gabriele which had been conducted by the head of the Vatican Police Domenico Giani, without the presence of a lawyer.

Other objections raised by Arru are pending; such as the issue of the 82 boxes of different sizes, seized in Gabriele’s house as well as objections relating to the way the search was carried out.

The trial has been adjourned until Tuesday, when Paolo Gabriele is due to take the stand. Should he be found guilty he could face up to a maximum four years in prison.

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