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WikiLeaks valet acted out of love for Church and pope say lawyers

VATICAN CITY (CNS): Lawyers for Paolo Gabriele, the personal assistant to Pope Benedict XVI accused of leaking private documents in the VatiLeaks scandal, said that his actions were done out for love of the Church and the pope. 

However, Carlo Fusco and Cristiana Arru, the defence lawyers, said whether or not anything Gabriele did was a crime will be up to Vatican magistrates or a Vatican court to determine. 

The lawyers spoke to reporters on July 21 after Gabriele was allowed to leave his 12-foot-by-12-foot cell in the Vatican police barracks and return to his apartment to be with his wife and three children. He had been in custody for 60 days. 

Vatican magistrates said they had finished their interrogation of the 46-year-old papal valet and were putting him under house arrest. The magistrates are still drafting their formal decision on whether or not they believe they have enough evidence to put Gabriele on trial for his alleged part in the VatiLeaks scandal. 

Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesperson, said he expected the decision to be published at the end of July or beginning of August. He said the report will also be given to the pope. 

Pope Benedict already has received the final conclusions of a separate investigation by a commission of three retired cardinals appointed to investigate a series of leaks of Vatican documents. 

The pope, after reading the reports, could decide how to proceed, either allowing the process to continue or forgiving the man who had worked in the papal apartment since 2006, said Father Lombardi. 

Gabriele was arrested on May 23 after confidential letters and documents addressed to the pope and other Vatican officials were allegedly found in his Vatican apartment. Similar documents had been published in the Italian media over the previous five months; many of them dealing with allegations of corruption, abuse of power and a lack of financial transparency at the Vatican. 

Fusco said Gabriele cooperated with Vatican investigators throughout the investigation. He said, “One thing Paolo repeated to us and to the judge was that he always was and still is motivated by a desire to do something that would be an act of helping, an act of love for the pope.” 

“There was no network, no conspiracy inside or outside the Vatican related to Paolo” and his actions, Fusco said. 

Arru added, “I absolutely exclude the idea that he received any money or benefit of any kind” for what he did. 

At the same time, the two lawyers said that Gabriele has expressed a desire to speak to the pope and ask his forgiveness. Fusco said that did not mean that Gabriele did anything criminal, but the pope has said he was saddened by what happened and Gabriele is sorry for that. 

“He has been able to reflect much in these days and has come to the conclusion that his methods could have been different. Yes, he regrets the means he used,” said Fusco. 

Fusco and Arru said that Gabriele’s house arrest was granted under a number of normal conditions: he may not leave his apartment or communicate, including by telephone or Internet, with anyone besides his immediate family, a spiritual adviser, his doctor or lawyers except with the express permission of the Vatican magistrates. 

Paolo Papanti-Pelletier, a Vatican judge not directly involved in the Gabriele case, told reporters in June that the papal butler faced between one year and six years in jail if convicted of aggravated theft under Vatican law. If found guilty after a public trial in the Vatican, he would serve his term in an Italian prison. 

The pope can intervene at any stage to suspend the process or to pardon or grant clemency to the accused. 

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