Vatican leaks trial nears end with requests for convictions

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Prosecutors asked a Vatican tribunal on Monday to absolve one journalist and give a suspended, one-year sentence to another for publishing books based on confidential Vatican documents exposing greed, mismanagement and corruption in the highest echelons of the Catholic Church.

In their closing arguments, prosecutors also asked the Vatican tribunal to convict a flamboyant PR executive, a Vatican monsignor and his secretary for having formed a "criminal association" with the aim of divulging confidential information.

Defense attorneys were to give closing statements Tuesday with a final ruling due Wednesday.

Italian journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi wrote blockbuster books last year based on Vatican documentation exposing the greed of bishops and cardinals lusting after big apartments, the extraordinarily high costs of getting a saint made and the loss to the Holy See of millions of euros in rental income because of undervalued real estate.

The two journalists were put on trial, amid outcry by media watchdog groups, on charges they published confidential documentation acquired by a papal reform commission. Prosecutors on Monday said they were guilty of a "moral conspiracy" to divulge the news.

Prosecutors Gian Pietro Milano and Roberto Zannotti asked that Nuzzi receive a one-year suspended sentence. They asked that Fittipaldi be absolved on the grounds there wasn't sufficient proof that he was part of the alleged conspiracy.

The highest sentence sought — three years and nine months — was for PR executive Francesca Chaouqui, who gave birth to a baby boy last month as the trial was wrapping up. Baby Pietro was in the tribunal Monday in a side room, but his cries could be heard in the chamber and Chaouqui dashed in and out to tend to him.

Of her proposed sentence, Chaouqui said: "How shameful."

Chaouqui; Monsignor Lucio Vallejo Balda, the commission's No. 2; and Vallejo's secretary, were charged with forming a criminal organization and conspiring to divulge secret information.

Vallejo admitted he provided Nuzzi with access to the password-protected documents. But he denied that he was threatened or pressured by Nuzzi to do so, as prosecutors alleged.

They asked the court to convict Vallejo and sentence him to three years and one month — eight months fewer than Chaouqui even though Vallejo admitted to having given Nuzzi the information. They asked that Nicola Maio, Vallejo's secretary, receive a sentence of one year, nine months.

Prosecutors insisted in their closing arguments that the publication of the information itself wasn't being punished but rather the conspiracy to divulge secret information that concerned the fundamental interests of the Vatican.

"This conspiracy, the psychological impulse, the availability and presence of the journalists reinforced the will of those who divulged the information to reveal their news," Zannotti said.

The Vatican in 2013 criminalized the publication of "reserved" information after Nuzzi wrote a book based on Vatican documents passed to him by Pope Benedict XVI's butler.

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