Vatican convicts 2 in leaks scandal; journalists cleared

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A Vatican court declared Thursday it had no jurisdiction to prosecute or convict two journalists for having published confidential information, ending an eight-month trial that drew scorn from media rights groups around the world.

The court did convict a Vatican monsignor and an Italian communications expert for having conspired to pass documents to the journalists, but cleared them of having formed a criminal association to do so. A fifth defendant, the monsignor's secretary, was cleared of all charges.

The verdict was an embarrassment to Vatican prosecutors, who had accused the journalists of conspiring and putting pressure on the three other defendants. Prosecutors had accused the three of forming a criminal organization that conspired to reveal confidential Vatican documents.

In the end, the president of the four-judge tribunal, Judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre, asserted the Vatican had no jurisdiction over the Italian journalists in the case and rule there wasn't sufficient evidence to show that any such criminal organization existed.

The court did, however, find that Monsignor Lucio Vallejo Balda, a former high-ranking Vatican official, passed documents to the journalists and sentenced him to 18 months in prison.

While clearing co-defendant Francesca Chaouqui, a public relations expert who was working on a Vatican reform panel, of actually passing documents, the court found her guilty of conspiring with Vallejo and sentenced her to 10 months in prison, suspended for five years.

The fifth defendant, Nicola Maio, was cleared.