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Vatican justice medieval: French lawyer
VATICAN CITY |
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican's justice system harks back to medieval times and is unlikely to provide the pope's butler with fair treatment after his arrest for leaking confidential documents, according to a French lawyer involved in a previous case in the Holy See.
Luc Brossollet is not involved in the so-called "Vatileaks" case shaking the papacy but he said his personal experience suggested the Vatican's judiciary is under the thumb of the Holy See and allows scant regard for the rights of defendants.
Brossollet was lawyer for the mother of Cedric Tornay, a young soldier in the Swiss Guard, the Pope's personal protection unit, who was found dead in May 1998 in a Vatican apartment alongside the bodies of the corp's commander and his wife.
"The Vatican does not have a modern, democratic judicial system that guarantees the defendant's rights. We are back to the Middle Ages. Even the Inquisition had some rules, but they don't have any. They just do as they wish," Brossollet told Reuters by telephone from Paris.
"The Vatican promotes the respect of human rights anywhere in the world, but it does not adhere to the same principles in its own courtyard," he said. "I think that poor butler is being detained arbitrarily."
After an official investigation, the Vatican concluded that Tornay had shot dead Swiss Guard commander Alois Estermann and his wife in a fit of rage over being passed over for promotion, before killing himself with the same weapon.
Brossollet contests that version and has repeatedly urged the Vatican to reopen the case, saying the investigation was deliberately flawed and included forged documents to cover up the affair.
The Vatican said at the time his allegations were offensive and groundless.
"ARCHAIC AND UNACCOUNTABLE"
The Pope's butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested by the Vatican police last Wednesday and has been charged with stealing confidential papal documents.
He is now being detained in a "safe room" in the Vatican police station. The Vatican has no jail. His supporters say he is merely a scapegoat in a wider conflict between rival cardinals.
He has been visited by his lawyer and his wife, is being allowed to attend Mass, and the Vatican - which is hunting other alleged leakers - says he will have all "the juridical guarantees foreseen by its criminal code", which is based on Italian legislation dating back to 1913.
The deputy Vatican spokesman, Father Ciro Benedettini, declined to comment on Brossollet's allegations on Thursday, but said the Holy See would brief journalists on the justice system next week.
Brossollet said the Vatican's top prosecutor, who is named by the pope and is known as the Promotor of Justice, had very limited experience of criminal cases, because they are so rare in the world's smallest state.
He said the Vatican's judiciary was not independent or transparent and paid scant attention to a defendant's rights, noting that statements from Gabriele's defense lawyer were being distributed by the Vatican's own press office.
Vatican chief spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has said this was requested by the lawyer, who did not want to speak directly to the press.
"I doubt that the butler's defense lawyer will ever have access to the full documents in the case," Brossollet said, adding that Tornay's mother still had not been able to obtain access to her son's judicial files after 14 years.
Brossollet said that throughout the Swiss Guard case, he and his co-defender Jacques Verges - whose clients have included a Nazi war criminal and a Khmer Rouge leader - were refused permission to argue their case before Vatican officials.
Only a handful of lawyers are allowed to work in the Vatican, and those who are not on that list must win special approval to do so.
"There is no independence, no separation of powers, and the judiciary will never go against the wishes of the Holy See. It's the archaic, unaccountable system of a sovereign prince," Brossollet said.
(Reporting By Silvia Aloisi; editing by Barry Moody)
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