Italian journalist calls trial against him ‘Kafkaesque’

Vatican city, Nov 25 (IANS/AKI) Italian journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi described as “Kafkaesque” his trial by the Vatican for publishing stolen confidential documents in a new tell-all book.

“I am living in an absurd and Kafkaesque situation, but I am not worried,” Fittipaldi told reporters on Tuesday.

He spoke during a break in the hearing at the trial where he and fellow journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi were in the dock together with three people who allegedly supplied them with the stolen documents.

“It is incredible to be indicted by another state’s judicial authority and for something that would not be a crime in my own country,” he added.

“We are not martyrs, we are journalists who just did their job,” commented Nuzzi, who also attended Tuesday’s hearing at the Vatican.

After 45 minutes of deliberations, the Vatican court turned down a request by Fittipaldi to drop charges that he violated Vatican law by publishing news based on confidential Holy See documents and “soliciting and exercising pressure” to obtain the documents.

Both Fittipaldi and Nuzzi were charged with the same crimes, and face up to eight years in jail if they are convicted.

The other three defendants in the trial are high-ranking Vatican clergyman Monsignor Lucio Vallejo Balda, his former Italian aide Nicola Maio and Italian laywoman and PR expert Francesca Chaouqui.

All three are accused of forming a criminal organisation and of procuring and leaking confidential documents and face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.

The Vatican refused to allow the defendants to hire their own lawyers and assigned them court-appointed attorneys.

With hours to go before the start of trial, neither they nor their lawyers had seen the court file detailing the accusations against them.

The Vatican announced the charges against them on Saturday and Nuzzi spoke for the first time with his Vatican court-appointed lawyer on Monday, the day before the start of the trial. It is open to just a few “pool” reporters for the proceedings.

The five defendants are required to present their written defences by Saturday, and oral arguments will begin on Monday. Vatican officials have said they would like to see the trial conclude by December 8, the start of the special Jubilee Year of Mercy called by Pope Francis.

In an unusual move, European security and democracy watchdog The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said on Monday the Vatican should drop its charges against Fittipaldi and Nuzzi on public interest and freedom of information grounds.

Press freedom watchdogs the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters without Borders, the Foreign Press Association in Rome, and the Order of Italian Journalists also criticised Fittipaldi and Nuzzi’s trial.

Fittipaldi’s new book ‘Avarice’ and Nuzzi’s ‘Merchants in the Temple’ depict waste, greed, corruption and mismanagement in the Vatican, and stiff resistance from the old guard to Francis’ reform agenda.

The books quickly sold out in Rome bookshops when they were released on November 5, and also became Amazon and Kindle best-sellers.

The Vatican criminalised the leaking of confidential information and publishing news based on such information in 2013 after Nuzzi wrote the blockbuster His Holiness detailing graft, intrigue and venomous power struggles at the top of the Catholic Church.

The so-called ‘Vatileaks’ scandal played a role in Pope Benedict XVI’s shock decision to resign, according to some observers.

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