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Journalist refuses to answer Vatican prosecutor’s questions over leaks

Italian journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi speaking to the press on Tuesday (AP)

An Italian journalist who is under criminal investigation by the Vatican for publishing a book about scandals at the Holy See said Tuesday he refused to answer the Vatican prosecutor’s questions during an interrogation this week, citing his right under Italian law to protect his sources.

Emiliano Fittipaldi, author of the new book Avarice, based on leaked Vatican documents, said he agreed to go to the Vatican on Monday after being formally summoned because he wanted to understand exactly what he was accused of.

But he told reporters Tuesday that he refused to answer the prosecutors’ questions, citing the protections journalists enjoy in Italy to shield their sources — protections which don’t exist in the Vatican legal code.

“I’d rather go to jail than reveal one of Avarice’s sources,” he said.

“(The Vatican) wants to create an internal precedent, as a way to stop other leaks in the future. They don’t care at all about what we think of these medieval rules.”

Another Italian journalist who wrote a second book about Vatican mismanagement and is also under investigation by the Vatican refused to appear for questioning this week. Gianluigi Nuzzi, author of Merchants in the Temple, also cited the utter lack of protections for journalists in the Vatican legal code, and the fact that the Italian constitution guarantees freedom of the press.

Both books detailed the waste, mismanagement and greed at the Vatican and the resistance Pope Francis is running into in trying to clean it up. Two people who had access to the documents cited by the books have been arrested in the case; one remains in a Vatican jail cell.

If the Vatican tribunal goes ahead and charges the two journalists and ultimately convicts them, it will come down to a political question as to whether the Holy See will request their extradition from Italy — and whether Italy will oblige.

Fittipaldi said on Tuesday that he expected prosecutors would shelve the case, but that regardless he didn’t think Italy would turn over two Italian journalists to face Vatican justice given that the Italian constitution guarantees freedom of the press.

Fittipaldi said the prosecutor told him he was facing the stiffest possible prison sentence — from four to eight years — because the Vatican considers the publication of the information to have been a crime against the state. According to the 2013 law, the Vatican asserts jurisdiction over foreign citizens even when the alleged crime occurs outside the Vatican if the crime is considered to be against the Vatican itself, and if the potential penalty is over three years.

“I’m really shocked, because reading my book, I would have thought that once the news was out there would have been investigations about other things inside the Vatican — not the publication of the news,” Fittipaldi said.