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Vatican Whistle-Blower Jailed For 18 Months
Pope Benedict's whistle-blowing butler has been given an 18-month jail sentence after being found guilty of leaking secret Vatican papers to the Italian media.
Paolo Gabriele, 46, had originally been charged with aggravated theft. But the defence asked for the accusation to be changed to misappropriation of papers from the private apartments of Pope Benedict.
Gabriele showed no emotion as the decision was announced.
Prosecutor Nicola Picardi had asked the court for a three-year sentence, but the three-man panel of judges - who took two hours to reach the verdict - decided to give him 18 months after taking into account his 10-year service at the Vatican, the fact he had no previous convictions, and his admission of taking the documents.
Gabriele was also ordered to pay costs and his lawyer said they would consider an appeal.
Despite the sentence, the feeling is the Pope will step in and show Christian forgiveness by pardoning Gabriele - which would not be the first time a Pope has forgiven.
In 1981, Pope John Paul II famously pardoned Turkish hitman Ali Agca who tried to kill him in St Peter's Square. The two later met in prison.
Papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the possibility of a pardon from Gabriele was "concrete".
The verdict was announced at the end of a four-day trial at the Vatican, which had been kept tightly controlled with only a panel of eight journalists being allowed in to monitor proceedings.
There was no live relay or TV cameras permitted - prompting suggestions from observers if it really was a transparent trial.
Before the sentence was announced, father-of-three Gabriele addressed Judge Giovanni Della Torre and the rest of the court after being asked if he was ''guilty or innocent'' and said: "The thing I feel strongly about is the conviction that I acted only out of visceral love for the Church of Christ and its visible head. I do not feel like a thief."
Gabriele said he took the documents in order to make the Pope aware of corruption and malpractice going on within the Catholic Church and said he had been "guided by the Holy Spirit", adding that he felt by leaking the documents to the media the Church would be "back on track".
They were taken from the Pope's private office and they detailed allegations of contracts being handed to favoured companies and individuals, as well as power struggles between rival cardinals and claims of money laundering in the Vatican Bank - scenarios that would not have been out of place in an episode of The Borgias or a Dan Brown blockbuster.
Adding to the sense of intrigue was whether Gabriele had worked alone - earlier this year in an Italian TV interview he said there were "at least 20 other people" leaking documents within the Vatican and he said himself, in testimony during the trial, that he did not feel he was "alone" in taking files.
He named two senior cardinals, Angelo Comastri and Paolo Sardi, as his "points of reference" but he stressed they were not directly involved in the leaking of the documents and they have also denied any wrongdoing.
Gabriele was arrested last May after documents were found at his grace-and-favour Vatican apartment, as well as a 100,000-euro cheque and a gold nugget and a 500-year-old book, which had been gifts to the Pope.
He admitted taking the book but denied stealing the nugget and the cheque.
The circumstances in which they were found were also disputed, with one Vatican policeman telling the court: "Both items were found in a shoebox," while another said: "only the nugget" had been found inside the box.
The court was also told that documents detailing the masons and the secret service were also found - all adding an element of a Dan Brown blockbuster to the proceedings - plus the fact documents were burnt to avoid leaving a trail.
During his testimony, he also described how his duties had been serving the Pope and looking after him.
Gabriele added how they had often eaten together, adding: "I had a unique and privileged position. I became convinced that it was easy to manipulate a person who has such enormous power in his hands."
Charged along with Gabriele was Vatican IT expert Claudio Sciarpelletti. But his trial has been separated from the butler's and will now take place at a later date.
Although the Vatican has secured a swift end to this first trial, the real question that everyone is asking has yet to be convincingly answered: "Who else was working with Gabriele?"
A report ordered by the Pope and which may have revealed more is being kept secret, leaving the Vatican still shrouded in intrigue.