, VATICAN CITY, Oct 3 – Four Vatican policemen are expected to take the stand on Wednesday in the trial against Pope Benedict XVI’s former butler, who is accused of stealing secret documents.
On Tuesday, Paolo Gabriele had told judges in the tiny state’s 19th-century courtroom, which is in an area that is strictly off limits to tourists and can only be accessed by 10 selected journalists, that he was innocent of theft.
But the ex-butler, whose duties had led him to develop a close relationship with the elderly pontiff, admitted to being guilty of abusing the pope’s trust.
Wednesday’s hearing was expected to focus on the testimonies of four Vatican policemen. The trial will continue Friday with final arguments from the prosecution and defence, and a verdict could come as early as Saturday.
Gabriele is accused of aggravated theft and could be sentenced to up to four years in jail, though he could also be pardoned by the pope at any time.
He told the court on Tuesday that he was mistreated during his 53-day detention at the Vatican — an accusation fiercely denied by the state’s spokesman and police, who were ordered by the judge to investigate the claims.
Gabriele, who is now under house arrest, is accused of leaking hundreds of memos that reported fraud and intrigue among senior Vatican figures.
He said he was driven to act because he believed the pope was being “manipulated” and had no idea about many controversial issues in the Church.
He also told the court that he had acted alone without any accomplices, but added that he had many high-up Vatican contacts who confided in him including a bishop, two cardinals and the pope’s former German housekeeper Ingrid Stampa.
At the start of the trial on Saturday, Gabriele suffered a series of setbacks when judges turned down his lawyer’s requests to strike down his indictment and throw out the case because of rules on papal secrecy.
Judges also declined to include in the trial a top secret report on the “Vatileaks” scandal compiled by a committee of cardinals appointed by the pope who interviewed dozens of people in a parallel investigation into the leaks.