By Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A Vatican trial against two Italian journalists, a Spanish monsignor and two others was postponed for one week after the court allowed one of the defendants to change lawyers.
On what was to be the criminal trial’s first day of testimonies by the defendants Nov. 30, the Vatican court granted a request by one of the accused to have a new lawyer and receive more time to prepare for the case.
The proceedings began with the presiding judge, Giuseppe Dalla Torre, stating the request by Francesca Chaouqui, a member of the former Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See.
Dalla Torre, along with three other Vatican judges, deliberated for 10 minutes before granting her request and announcing the trial would resume Dec. 7.
Along with Chaouqui, the defendants present were: Spanish Msgr. Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, secretary of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See; Nicola Maio, who served as personal assistant to Msgr. Vallejo Balda when he worked on the commission; and the journalists, Gianluigi Nuzzi, author of “Merchants in the Temple,” and Emiliano Fittipaldi, author of “Avarice.”
All five defendants had been given Vatican court-appointed attorneys in the run-up to the trial. Msgr. Vallejo Balda and Nuzzi had requested the Vatican’s appellate court to allow them to be represented by their own lawyers. However, Nuzzi tweeted Nov. 24 that the appellate court denied his request.
Msgr. Vallejo Balda, Chaouqui and Maio are accused of forming an “organized criminal association” with the aim of “committing several illegal acts of divulging news and documents concerning fundamental interests of the Holy See and (Vatican City) State.”
Under the Vatican criminal code, it is a crime to take, distribute and publish confidential documents.
Fittipaldi and Nuzzi are accused of “soliciting and exercising pressure, especially on (Msgr.) Vallejo Balda, in order to obtain confidential documents and news,” which they then used for their books. The books went on sale in early November.