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Vatileaks suspect will not plead for pope pardon

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PR expert Francesca Chaouqui with Monsignor Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda in February 2014. Photo: Umberto Pizzi/AFP
08:07 CET+01:00
A former PR consultant to the Vatican on trial along with four others for leaking or publishing secret papers said on Thursday she would not ask Pope Francis for a pardon.

"Those who are innocent do not ask to be pardoned," Francesca Chaouqui told journalists, ruling out a similar course of action to former pontiff Benedict XVI's butler who was found guilty in the first Vatileaks trial in 2013 but later pardoned.

Chaouqui insisted prosecutors have "nothing that could lead to a conviction", and the only thing that ties her to the leaks are accusations made against her by Spanish priest Lucio Vallejo Balda, who is also on trial.

Vallejo Balda has portrayed his former friend Chaouqui as a manipulative temptress, saying he was tempted to break his vow of celibacy because of her sexual advances, a claim she has rubbished.

Chaouqui insists that while she did stay in a hotel with him in Florence, he shared the room with his mother that night.

The pair are accused along with a third person of stealing and leaking documents which provide evidence of corruption and mismanagement in Vatican spending, which were used as the basis of books by two investigative journalists.

The journalists, Italians Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, are also on trial for publishing the leaks.

'Political motives'

"I introduced the journalists to Monsignor Balda, but I didn't hand over one single document," Chaouqui said.

Vallejo Balda, who was arrested in November over the accusations but released from jail and placed under house arrest at the end of last month, has claimed he was coerced by the reporters into handing over the papers.

Chaouqui laid the blame for her arrest on Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, claiming he was annoyed not to have had a say in her appointment as advisor to a papal commission.

"The Holy father did not sign my arrest warrant. It was an act of the secretary of state," she said, adding: "If a court can put me on trial without proof, it can find me guilty for political motives".

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Francis has distanced himself from the PR consultant, saying her appointment was a mistake. Eyebrows had already been raised in 2013, after it emerged Chaouqui had been highly critical of the Vatican on Twitter in 2012.

Tweets - which she claimed were written by a hacker - included one saying Pope Benedict had leukaemia. Another said high-ranking Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone was corrupt and another accused a former Italian minister of being gay.

The Vatican's embarrassment only increased when racy photos of her went viral on the internet.

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