Pope's ex-butler claims mistreatment in custody
The Pope's butler has accused the Vatican of mistreating him, alleging yesterday that he was kept in a tiny cell with the lights on 24 hours a day for up to 20 days.
In a surprise development, the judge in the trial of Paolo Gabriele, who is accused of stealing confidential documents from the Pope's office, ordered an investigation into whether he had been held in inhumane conditions.
Speaking publicly for the first time since his arrest in May, Mr Gabriele disclosed details of his time on remand in an isolation cell in the headquarters of the Vatican gendarmerie, the Pope's police force.
He said that the cell in which he was initially held after his arrest was so narrow that he could not stretch out his arms and that the bright lights had damaged his vision and left him depressed. He claimed to have been subjected to psychological pressure.
The Vatican Gendarmerie, which consists of 130 officers, issued a rejection of his accusations, saying that the lights were kept on "for security" and because there were fears he might try to harm himself.
He had been given an eye mask and was checked at intervals, the police said.
Gendarmes said Mr Gabriele was allowed to use the gendarmerie gym, to socialise with officers, many of whom he knew before his arrest, and to attend Mass.
Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, insisted the conditions under which Mr Gabriele was held conformed to international standards. The butler was later moved to a larger, more comfortable cell, Father Lombardi said.
In court, Mr Gabriele denied the one charge he faces -- that of the "aggravated theft" of hundreds of documents, despite the fact that they were allegedly found in his apartment in the Vatican.
"In relation to the accusation of aggravated theft, I declare myself innocent," he said. "(But) I feel guilty of having betrayed the trust of the Holy Father, who I love like a son (would love a father)." (© Daily Telegraph, London)