Trial delayed as accused asks for more time

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PR expert Francesca Chaouqui with Monsignor Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda in February 2014. Photo: Umberto Pizzi/AFP
13:31 CET+01:00
The controversial trial of five people involved in the latest Vatican leaks scandal was adjourned on Monday until next week, after one of the accused asked for more time to prepare her defence.

Francesca Chaouqui, a PR expert who faces up to eight years in prison for leaking classified documents to journalists, asked for five days to study the prosecution case against her and possibly introduce new evidence after replacing her court-appointed lawyer with her own defence counsel.

The prosecution did not object and the presiding judge said the case would resume on December 7th, effectively dashing the hopes of Vatican officials that the high-profile case might be wrapped up before the official start of a Catholic Jubilee year the following day.

Chaouqui said she still had no idea of what she was supposed to have done.

"I don't understand anything," she told reporters after Monday's brief hearing. "There is no proof against me. I need this extra time to understand why I am here."

The Vatican has been widely criticised for pursuing the prosecution of two Italian journalists, Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, over leaks which they used as the basis for books depicting irregularities and extravagance in the Holy See's spending.

Chaouqui had access to potentially embarrassing material after being asked to join a commission on economic reform set up by Pope Francis shortly after his election in 2013.

The secretary of the commission, Spanish priest Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, and his assistant Nicola Maio have also been charged under legislation the Vatican introduced in reaction to the first Vatileaks scandal, which involved former pope Benedict XVI's butler revealing the extraordinary scale of bitter infighting in the upper echelons of the Church's bureaucracy, the curia.

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All five accused have been charged with obtaining and disclosing confidential papers "concerning the fundamental interests of the Vatican State".

Vallejo Balda, who has been in detention since his November 2nd arrest, Chaouqui and Maio are additionally charged with organized criminal association in order to obtain the documents they allegedly leaked to the journalists.

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