Trial of Pope's Former Butler Begins in Vatican Court

Gabriele Could Face Maximum 4 Years if Convicted for Aggravated Theft

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By Junno Arocho

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 1, 2012 ( The trials of Paolo Gabriele, the Pope’s former butler, and Claudio Sciarpelletti began on Saturday, where a Vatican Court decided that both men will be tried separately in what has been dubbed the “Vatileaks” scandal. Gabriele has been charged with aggravated theft of private documents while Scarpelleti is charged with aiding and abetting a crime after the fact.

Giuseppe dalla Torre, president of the Vatican Tribunal, read the charges against both defendants. Gabriele was present with his lawyer while Sciarpelletti was represented by his attorney, citing unexpected reasons for his absence. Among the 13 witnesses called to testify, nine were present. Among those absent was Msgr. Georg Gänswein, personal secretary to the Holy Father.

Gianluca Benedetti, Sciarpellatti’s attorney, plead not guilty and stated that due to the lesser charge of aiding and abetting, asked the court for a separate trial which was granted. The trial will take place at a later unspecified date.

Gabriele’s attorney, Cristiana Arru, presented several motions that were rejected by the Vatican Court. Among the requests that were denied was the permission to include results from an investigation by the Commission of Cardinals as evidence.

The Vatican Court rejected the motion citing that the results of the Cardinals’ investigation were reserved only for the Holy Father, and therefore cannot be counted as evidence. Dalla Torre stressed that the evidence would be based only on the investigations carried out by the police and prosecutors of Vatican City State.

According to Vatican Radio, the court also rejected a pre-trial plea for a ruling on “Sub secreto pontificio”, or evidence that is subject to pontifical secret. The court overruled the plea on the basis that such a ruling is not part of the criminal code of Vatican City State.

The Vatican court, however, obliged Arru’s motion to dismiss as evidence two interrogations of Gabriele that were made without the presence of a lawyer.

Witness List Made Public

The Holy See released the names of the witnesses for the trials today. Among those called to the witness stand in Sciarpelleti’s trial are Msgr. Carlo Maria Polvani, head of the information and communications section of the Vatican Secretary of State, and William Kloter, the vice commander of the Swiss Guard, as well as Gabriele.

At the former papal butler’s trial, Cristina Cernetti, a consecrated laywoman who works in the papal household and the aforementioned Msgr. Gänswein are among the witness called to testify.

The trial is set to continue on Tuesday, where Gabriele is expected to take the stand. If found guilty, he could face a maximum penalty of up to four years in prison, unless pardoned by the Holy Father. 

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