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Two journalists go on trial over Vatican leaks

The trial of several Italian journalists and Vatican officials has begun despite criticism from media rights groups. Five people are on trial as part of the Vatileaks 2 scandal, which revealed waste at the Holy See.

The five appeared before the court on Tuesday for

obtaining and publishing secret documents

showing widespread financial waste and fraud within the Vatican bureaucracy.

The journalists, Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, face up to eight years in prison for publishing two books earlier this month based on

confidential Vatican documents from a special reform commission established by Pope Francis

to clean up waste in the Catholic Church.

While walking into the Vatican, the two reporters denied any wrongdoing, saying they had just done their duty as professionals.

The books, Fittipaldi's "Avarice," and Nuzzi's "Merchants in the Temple," reveal infighting within the Vatican bureaucracy, waste and fraud by cardinals and bishops, and resistance from some clergy to the pontiff's reforms.

Gag law

The Vatican has not denied the accuracy of the documents and transgressions within the church, but has said the issues are old and

have been resolved through Francis' reforms.

The three other people on trial had ties to the commission. Monsignor Angelo Lucio Vallejo Balda, the second highest official on the commission, public relations expert Francesca Chaouqui and Balda's assistant, Nicola Maio, are accused of forming a criminal organization and leaking confidential documents.

The case is being brought against the five under a 2013 Vatican law criminalizing the leaking of secrets and publishing of news.

The law was quickly put together after Nuzzi wrote another book on corruption and infighting within the Vatican based on information from Pope Benedict XVI's butler. Many believe those revelations ultimately weighed on the Pope's unprecedented decision to retire.

Calls to drop trial

The Committee to Protect Journalists, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and Reporters without Borders have all condemned the trial and called for the case to be dropped.

It is unlikely that the two journalists will face time in a Vatican prison even if convicted.

Nuzzi and Fittipaldi are Italian citizens, and, although the Vatican is a sovereign state, in recent interviews the journalists said they didn't believe that Italy would extradite them for simply reporting.

"Maybe I'm naive, but I believed they would investigate those I denounced for criminal activity, not the person that revealed the crimes," Fittipaldi told AFP.

Chaouqui has denied committing a crime and was released after cooperating with investigators. She has accused Vallejo Balda, who is in a Vatican cell, of being behind the leaks.

cw/kms (AFP, AP)

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