VatiLeaks journalists on trial plead innocence, verdict due Thursday

Defence lawyers representing the two journalists on trial at the Vatican for exposing embarassing information about Catholic Church finances called Wednesday for non-guilty rulings, addressing the court on the eve of its verdict.

The so-called VatiLeaks 2 trial has exposed the Vatican to criticism that it is violating European rules on freedom of the press by going after investigative journalists who have received private information.

"The last hearing will take place tomorrow ... at 11:30 am (0930 GMT), with final statements from defendants, then the court will retire to deliberate. The verdict is foreseeable in the course of the afternoon," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said.

He released his statement after a hearing in which attorneys for reporters Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emanuele Fittipaldi, who used leaked Vatican material to publish investigative journalism books, told judges there was no ground to convict their clients.

Before proceedings started, both reporters took to Twitter to launch a campaign under the hashtag #acquitnuzziandfittipaldi. Although they are both Italian citizens, they agreed to be tried in the Vatican court.

"The trial at the Vatican is not against us, it is against freedom of the press," Fittipaldi wrote on the social network.

On Monday, Vatican prosecutors proposed a one-year suspended sentence against Nuzzi and an acquittal for Fittipaldi, due to lack of evidence. But they said both were "morally complicit" in the crime of exposing Vatican state secrets.

The prosecution urged tougher punishment for the alleged leakers, calling for jail terms of three years and nine months for Italian public relations consultant Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui; three years and one month for Spanish priest Lucio Vallejo Balda; and 21 months for Balda's aide Nicola Maio.

Chaouqui and Balda's counsels spoke on Tuesday, and Maio's on Wednesday. They all pleaded for their clients to be acquitted.

Last update: Thu, 07/07/2016 - 08:33
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