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Turning point in the Vatileaks 2 trial. Journalists acquitted, “crows” punished

The tribunal of the Holy See has given up on judging events that took place in Italy. Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi were accused of moral complicity in the disclosure of confidential information

On Thursday, July 7, 2016, after five hours of deliberation, the Vatican court has acquitted the Italian journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, defendants in the trial also known as Vatileaks 2. The Court has declared the non-territorial jurisdiction over nationals of another country, private and not public officials. Furthermore, they also affirmed that the Holy See recognizes the freedom of expression and freedom of the press by divine right. Instead the Spanish prelate, Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, and Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui were condemned to 18 and 10 months respectively. They would be the “crowss” who would have filtered information. Nuzzi said that his absolution is one of the effects of the turn around imposed to the Vatican’s affairs by Pope Francis.

Nuzzi is the author of the book Via Crucis and Emiliano Fittipaldi of Avarizia: both volumes relate backstories not yet denied on the misappropriation of funds from the finances of the Papal States. In November 2015, at the beginning of the trial, the journalists were accused of a crime for which there can be a prison sentence of up to eight years (dissemination of news and confidential documents, offense provided for under Law number IX of the Holy See, in force since July 13, 2013, Article 116 bis of the Criminal Code). In the recent hearings this indictment was dropped and was instead contested the less serious crime of moral complicity in the dissemination of confidential documents. They were then accused of having done their job as journalists, looking for and publishing uncomfortable news for the Holy See but of absolute public interest. On 5 July 2016, the prosecution had asked the acquittal for Fittipaldi for lack of evidence, and one year in prison with a suspended sentence for Nuzzi.

Two of the other three defendants were sentenced to prison terms but to milder sentences than those requested by the attorney general: the Spanish prelate, Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, secretary of the Pontifical Commission and representative of the organization of the economic-administrative structure of the Holy See, was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment; Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, consultant to the same body, got ten months. The judges have not recognized the existence of the aggravating circumstance of criminal association and declared the sentence suspended for five years. The third defendant, Nicola Maio, Balda’s secretary, was acquitted for not having committed the crime. The three would be the Crows who have passed documents to the journalists.

The same adjunct general prosecutor, Roberto Zanotti, had recognized that journalists can not be punished for the dissemination of news, but had charged Nuzzi and Fittipaldi with the fact that they have strengthened the purpose of the other defendants in disclosing confidential information. Indeed, the presence and availability of journalists, in his view, were the essential reasons behind the decision to disclose secret dossiers. The prosecution has considered proven this theory for Nuzzi, but not for Fittipaldi. That’s why it had applied for a sentencing for the former and an absolution for the latter.

As for the other defendants, a sentence of three years and one month in prison had been sought for Monsignor Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda; to three years and nine months for Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui; to one year and one month in prison for Nicola Maio. The three – with varying degrees of responsibility – saw the prosecution object to the removal of the offense and disclosure of confidential information regarding the finances and expenses of the Vatican, with the aggravating circumstance of the associative link.


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