Computer expert Sciarpelletti guilty in Pope leak case

The BBC's Alan Johnson: "Mr Sciarpelleti gave a series of contradictory, confusing accounts"

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A Vatican court has convicted a computer expert of helping the Pope's former butler to leak information from confidential papal documents.

Claudio Sciarpelletti, 48, was given a suspended sentence of two months for obstruction of justice.

He was accused of aiding former butler Paolo Gabriele while working as a computer technician in the Vatican.

Gabriele was given an 18-month prison sentence this month after he admitted passing documents to a journalist.

Envelope trail

Claudio Sciarpelletti had worked for the past 20 years in the Secretariat of State of the Holy See and was responsible for the maintenance of all computers.

His lawyer said an anonymous tip-off led Vatican police to search Sciarpelletti's desk last May - finding an envelope addressed to Gabriele containing copies of sensitive documentation that had been leaked to the Italian media.

Analysis

After two separate "public" trials of two lay employees, the Vatican has drawn a line under the "Vatileaks" scandal that has rocked the international headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.

The findings of a previous internal commission of enquiry composed of top Vatican cardinals, ordered by Pope Benedict, have been kept under wraps.

So we are none the wiser about the extent to which - as the Pope's former butler alleged to Vatican investigators and later in court - there may have been a wider conspiracy of disgruntled priests, bishops or even cardinals working inside the Vatican to leak confidential documents revealing corruption or internal dissent about Church policies.

All Vatican employees, both lay and clerical, swear an oath of loyalty to the pope to preserve the confidentiality of all internal communications, the equivalent of signing Britain's Official Secrets Act.

The trials may have been a warning to all Vatican employees to remember the gravity of breaking what is called in Latin secretum pontificium, or papal secrecy - one of the foundation stones of Vatican government.

He had been charged with aiding and abetting Gabriele in leaking the document.

But the court decided that he was guilty only of obstruction of justice, because he had changed his version of events several times during the investigations.

Gabriele's trial heard that he had used the photocopier in his shared office next to the Pope's library to copy thousands of documents, taking advantage of his unrivalled access to the pontiff.

He later passed some of the documents to journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi.

Mr Nuzzi released a best-selling book this year, entitled His Holiness, largely based on the confidential papers and detailing corruption, scandals and infighting.

Its publication sparked the hunt for the source of the leaks inside the Vatican, leading to Gabriele's arrest.

Police said they had found thousands of documents at Gabriele's home, including some original papers bearing the Pope's handwriting. Some had the instruction "destroy" written by the Pope in German on them.

Gabriele confessed to taking the papers, but said he believed the Pope was being manipulated and hoped to reveal alleged corruption at the Vatican.

He told his trial that he did not see himself as a thief, but admitted he was guilty of "having betrayed the trust of the Holy Father, whom I love as a son would."

The Vatican has dismissed suspicions of a wider plot, saying that Gabriele acted alone in obtaining the documents and giving them to the journalist.

Gabriele is serving his prison term in a special detention room inside the Vatican police station.

The Vatican authorities were worried that if he were to be moved into an Italian prison he might be subject to pressure to reveal secrets which might cause further embarrassment to the Pope, says the BBC's David Willey in Rome.

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