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Italian journalists cleared in Vatican leaks trial

Italian public relations expert Chaouqui talks to reporters as she leaves the Vatican at the end of her trial, in Rome

A Vatican court on Thursday cleared two Italian journalists charged with publishing leaked documents that claimed the Church was riddled with graft, ruling that the Holy See had no jurisdiction over them.

The court found two other defendants, Italian public relations expert Francesca Chaouqui and Spanish priest Angel Lucio Vallejo Balda, guilty. Vallejo received an 18-month sentence and Chaouqui, who has a three-week-old son, was given a 10-month suspended sentence.

The fifth defendant, Nicola Maio, an assistant to Vallejo, was found innocent at the end of the eight-month trial that shed light on fierce infighting and mismanagement at the heart of the Vatican administration.

The two reporters, Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, published books last year that depicted a Vatican plagued by greed and corruption, and where Pope Francis faced stiff resistance from the old guard to his reform agenda.

Angered by the books’ revelations, Vatican investigators accused Chaouqui, Balda and Maio of leaking confidential documents and said the reporters had tried to reap financial reward from knowingly receiving stolen documents.

Media watchdogs accused the Roman Catholic Church of looking to muzzle its opponents and stifle press freedom.

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