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01:17, 27 June 2017 Tuesday
Update: 15:28, 06 October 2012 Saturday

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Ex-papal butler sentenced to 18 months jail
Ex-papal butler sentenced to 18 months jail

Paolo Gabriele, Pope Benedict's former butler convicted of stealing sensitive documents, will serve his sentence under house arrest in his Vatican apartment while awaiting a possible papal pardon

World Bulletin/News Desk

A Vatican court convicted Pope Benedict's former butler of stealing sensitive documents and sentenced him to 18 months in prison on Saturday, at the end of one of the most sensational trials in the recent history of the Holy See.

A Vatican spokesman said the pope, who reigns as a supreme monarch in the world's smallest city-state, would "most likely" pardon Paolo Gabriele, which would mean he would not have to serve his sentence.

Paolo Gabriele, Pope Benedict's former butler convicted of stealing sensitive documents, will serve his sentence under house arrest in his Vatican apartment while awaiting a possible papal pardon, his lawyer said. 

The court delivered its verdict after two hours of deliberations and closing arguments by the prosecution and the defence.

Gabriele had admitted being the source of leaks of highly sensitive papers, including letters to the pope that alleged corruption in the Vatican's business dealings.

"What I feel most strongly inside myself is the conviction that I acted exclusively out of love, I would say a visceral love, for the Church of Christ and its visible representative," he said in an impassive voice during a final appeal to the court.

"If I have to repeat it, I am not a thief," he added.

The prosecution had asked for a three-year sentence while the defence asked the court to reduce the charges from aggravated theft to misappropriation and for him to be freed.

The head of the three-judge panel, wearing a black robe with gold tassels, read the verdict with the opening words: "In the name of Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, gloriously reigning, the court has invoked the Holy Trinity and has reached its sentence."

The judge said he had given Gabriele a lighter sentence because he had no previous criminal record. Gabriele's lawyer and the Vatican spokesman said the former butler would be returned to house arrest in the Vatican for the time being.

The lawyer said she would decide after reading the court's formal explanation of its verdict whether to file an appeal.

The trial, which started last Saturday, threw open the window on a betrayal of trust and sensitive secrets in the Vatican.

A former member of the small, select group known as "the papal family", Gabriele was one of fewer than 10 people who had a key to an elevator leading directly to the pope's apartments.

In the course of the trial, intimate details emerged of the inner workings of an institution long renowned for its secrecy.

The documents Gabriele leaked constituted one of the biggest crises of Pope Benedict's papacy when they emerged in a muckraking expose by an Italian journalist earlier this year.

The case has been an embarrassment for the Vatican, coming at a time when it was keen to rid itself from the taint left by a series of scandals involving sexual abuse of minors by clerics around the world and mismanagement at its bank.

Gabriele told investigators before the trial began that he leaked the documents because he saw "evil and corruption everywhere in the Church" and that information was being hidden from the pope.

Earlier this week Gabriele accused the Holy See's police of mistreating him while in custody. Members of the force in turn depicted the butler as a man obsessed with the occult, Masonic lodges and secret services.



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Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland
Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland

Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades said Monday he hopes to clinch a reunification deal laying out a new security blueprint for the divided island during a crunch summit in Switzerland this week. Anastasiades will attend United Nations-backed talks at the Alpine Crans-Montana ski resort Wednesday with "complete determination and goodwill... to achieve a desired solution", he said in a statement. He said he hopes to "abolish the anachronistic system of guarantees and intervention rights", with a deal providing for the withdrawal of the Turkish army. The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece. Turkey maintains around 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus. The so-called guarantor powers of Turkey, Britain and Greece retain the right to intervene militarily on the island. Greek and Turkish Cypriots are at odds over a new security blueprint, but their leaders are under pressure to reach an elusive peace deal. "I am going to Switzerland to participate in the Cyprus conference, with the sole aim and intent of solving the Cyprus problem," Anastasiades said. Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci is also set to attend the summit, which is expected to last at least 10 days. Greece, Turkey and Britain will send envoys along with an observer from the European Union. UN-led talks on the island hit a wall in late May after the sides failed to agree terms to advance toward a final summit. Unlocking the security question would allow Anastasiades and Akinci to make unprecedented concessions on core issues. But they have major differences on what a new security blueprint should look like. Anastasiades's internationally recognised government, backed by Athens, seeks an agreement to abolish intervention rights, with Turkish troops withdrawing from the island on a specific timeline. Turkish Cypriots and Ankara argue for some form of intervention rights and a reduced number of troops remaining in the north. Turkish Cypriots want the conference to focus on broader issues of power-sharing, property rights and territory for the creation of a new federation. Much of the progress to date has been based on strong personal rapport between Anastasiades and Akinci, leader of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. But that goodwill has appeared frayed in the build-up to their meeting in Switzerland. The Greek Cypriot presidential election next February has also complicated the landscape, as has the government's search for offshore oil and gas, which Ankara argues should be suspended until the negotiations have reached an outcome.