Monday 19 February 2018

Holy See acts to reassure 'Vatileaks' trial critics

Francesca Chaouqui. Photo: AP
Francesca Chaouqui. Photo: AP

Nicole Winefield in Vatican City

A Vatican tribunal agreed yesterday to let the defence call some of Pope Francis' s top advisers, including his secretary of state, to testify in a trial over leaked documents, as the Holy See sought to quash criticism that the five accused weren't getting a fair trial.

Judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre bowed to defence demands to admit more complete text messages and emails, as well as letters of recommendation and the results of a monsignor's psychiatric exam into evidence, as the trial got underway in earnest.

Three people affiliated with a papal reform commission are accused of leaking documents to two reporters who published books detailing waste, mismanagement and greed among some cardinals and bishops, and the resistance Francis is facing trying to clean it up.

The two reporters are also on trial, accused of having illegally acquired and published the material - accusations that have drawn criticism from media rights groups around the world.

Francesca Chaouqui, a communications expert and commission member, had called as witnesses three of Francis' top advisers, including his secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

Judge Dalla Torre admitted them all, overriding the prosecutors' objections. It remains to be seen if they can be compelled to testify. Parolin, for example, could argue he enjoys immunity as a head of state.

During the first hearing on November 24, Judge Dalla Torre had seemed intent on wrapping up the trial quickly, refusing defence requests for more time and rejecting requests from the defendants to allow their long-time lawyers to represent them.

Last week, amid criticism by the defendants that their rights were being violated, Pope Francis himself acknowledged that the defendants must have their rights respected.

Vatican spokesman, the Rev Federico Lombardi, issued a statement yesterday entitled 'Guaranteeing a Fair Trial,' in which he insisted that the Vatican legal code was on par with other countries and that the defendants' rights were being respected.

Irish Independent

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