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Vatican corruption: Journalists stand trial

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'I am incredulous in finding myself here as a defendant in a country that is not mine.'

Following the publication of books claiming the Holy See was mismanaged and spoiled through corruption, five people went on trial at the Vatican on Tuesday. Two of the five on trial were Italian Journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, neither of whom believes they are guilty of any wrongdoing.

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Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi must stand trial at the Vatican for publishing confidential documents (Reuters).

Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi must stand trial at the Vatican for publishing confidential documents (Reuters).

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - During the first session, Nuzzi and Fittipaldi claimed they were simply fulfilling their professional duties and were not guilty of any crime.

Fittipaldi told the court, "I am incredulous in finding myself here as a defendant in a country that is not mine." He added that the published news was entirely legal via the Italian constitution, European conventions and universal human rights declarations.

The Vatican follows a 19th-century Italian criminal code that is similar to the Italian legal system. However, the Vatican does not utilize jury trials.

In 2013, Pope Benedict's resigned following a scandal related to the leaking of documents from the pope's desk. The scandal led to a criminal law making it illegal to leak such documents, which is what the Vatican prosecutor claims Nuzzi and Fittipaldi have done.

One Vatican prosecutor claimed it was not the Holy See's intent to suppress the freedom of speech for the press, but that the defendants had illegally published leaked documents acquired by pressuring Spanish Monsignor Angel Lucio Vallejo Balda.

The Vatican claims the publications, Merchants in the Temple and Avarice provide a "partial and tendentious" version of events and has accused the journalists of attempting to gain financial footing from the documents.

Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi with public relations expert Francesca Chaouqui (L'Osservatore Romano).

Balda and Italian laywoman Francesca Chaouqui were also arrested earlier this month for being part of a commission Pope Francis created to study economic and administrative reforms. Nicola Miaio, Balda's assistant, was also put on trial.

Prosecutors claimed Balda, Chaouqui and Maio created "an organized criminal association" with goals of "divulging information and documents concerning the fundamental interests of the Holy See and the State."

At a news conference concerning the trial, Nuzzi was asked how the upcoming case could affect Pope Francis' image, to which Nuzzi suggested Vatican officials would do whatever it took to protect their privileges and status.

"This trial against journalists is a trial against transparency," Nuzzi said. "In it, I see no evidence of the clear message of a sweet revolution the pope espouses every day ... unfortunately, there are various personalities in the Church (and) when you talk about the privileges of a caste, the caste is not happy."

Nuzzi and Fittipaldi complained that they were forced to accept court-appointed lawyers and were not given important documents necessary for their defense until days -with some appearing only hours - before the trial started.

Fittipaldi admitted he met his lawyer for the first time right before the trial started and that the court ruled a senior Vatican judge could decide if an outside lawyer would be allowed to represent the journalists.

Dunham Mijatovic, a representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said, "Journalists must be free to report on issues of public interests and to protect their confidential sources. I call on the authorities not to proceed with the charges and protect journalists' rights in accordance with OSCE commitments."

The AIGAV, the association of reporters accredited to the Vatican, called the trail "unacceptable" and claimed "We have to stress that publishing news is precisely our job."

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