By Salvatore Cernuzio – Vatican City
The trial in the Vatican for alleged misconduct in management of Secretariat of State funds has moved forward in the next steps of the judicial process. The next hearing will take place on March 17 and mark the start of what the president of the Court, Giuseppe Pignatone, termed “the real trial” with the first interrogation of Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu. In an order of about forty pages, read this morning in the meeting hall of the Vatican Museums, Pignatone rejected all the requests for case dismissal presented by defense lawyers from July 27 up until yesterday’s hearing, which lasted over three hours. The ordinance: every defense claim rejected.
The order: Defence arguments rejected
The panel of judges responded to each of the exceptions presented by the defense lawyers, stating many were “unfounded”, “inadmissible”, or “irrelevant”. The objections to the failure to deposit documents, the nullity of the decree of summons, the inclusion of the Secretariat of State, IOR, APSA, ASIF as civil plaintiffs, the omissions in the documents deposited or the Pope’s rescripts were all rejected.
A just process
Regarding the “alleged violations of due process”, the order states that “the Vatican system fully respects the indications found in article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights regarding due process. In this regard, Pignatone referred to two sentences, that of the Italian Court of Cassation, which annulled the precautionary detention of financier Gianluigi Torzi, and that of the Swiss Federal Court, which confirmed the seizure of broker Raffaele Mincione on appeal, because they both refuted the allegation that in the Vatican, due to its unique institutional structure, the principles of “due process” do not exist. It is precisely these two sentences that recognize the independence of Vatican judges, thus rendering “completely unjustified and out of place the definitions of ‘special trial’ and ‘special court'” used by some defenders.
Response of the defence
The defendants’ lawyers have said they intend to challenge this order, saying the Vatican Court based its position not only “on the observance of the laws”, but also on the Pope’s four rescripts, which they claimed “are acts of normative value, but certainly not laws”.
President Pignatone then asked for the Court to be informed which defendants intended to undergo interrogation. The request led several attorneys to state that they wanted to “first have clear material”. That is, an expert analysis on the forensic copies “to evaluate the correspondence between the material seized and what is reproduced in the acts”. The request to obtain the computer materials seized from Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, considered to be the main witness, has been made by many. President Pignatone clarified that the Court “does not have the competence to decide on things that have been seized but not deposited” and invited the Office of the Promoter of Justice, represented today in court by Roberto Zannotti, to proceed with the requests for copies of the material. The Promoter of Justice reserved the right to evaluate “any request” for copies and provide them if possible by March 7.
Most of the attorneys have expressed their willingness to allow the interrogations of their clients, with the exception of the attorneys of three defendants: Raffaele Mincione, Gianluigi Torzi, and Cecilia Marogna. The defender of the latter, Fiorino Ruggio, explained that his client had pointed out a bond of secrecy with the Vatican Secretariat of State, the Italian State, and NATO. The Vatican Court, Pignatone clarified, can write to the Secretariat of State to ask for clarifications, but not to third parties, especially NATO noting that at this time it is “busy with other matters”. Ruggio responded by noting that if NATO does release her from the vow of secrecy, she remains bound by it; and he added that Marogna “fears for her personal safety”.
Cardinal Becciu to be questioned
The first person to be questioned on March 17 will therefore be Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, the only defendant present in court this morning. The cardinal will answer questions only on the sending of funds to the Sardinian Diocese of Ozieri and to the “Spes” cooperative, which was managed by his brother. It is expected that the cardinal will later be questioned with regard to the affair of the “London building affair” and the “Marogna issue.” Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu commented on the sidelines of the hearing, saying, “Finally we are starting, now I can talk.”
In conclusion, Court President Pignatone asked the parties to present requests for evidence for the next hearing, but not concerning the witnesses. Other hearings are scheduled for March 18, 29, and 30 and for April 5 and 6.
Working translation, excerpts from original article in Italian