By NICOLE WINFIELD and FRANCES D’EMILIO Associated Press NOVEMBER 30, 2015 —
ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE — Pope Francis has acknowledged criticism that the Vatican’s trial over leaked documents has been rushed, saying the defendants and their lawyers must have time to mount a proper defense.
Francis spoke to reporters en route home from Africa after a Vatican judge on Tuesday adjourned the trial until Dec. 7 to give one of the defendants time to prepare after she engaged a new attorney late last week. Several of the suspects had complained that they hadn’t had time to find lawyers, much less study the case file before the trial began Nov. 24.
In a startling acknowlegment of his involvement in the process, Francis said he had wanted the trial to be finished before the Dec. 8 start of his Jubilee Year of Mercy.
“But I think this can’t be done now, because I want all the defense lawyers to have time to defend, that there is the freedom of defense,” he said.
Three members of a papal reform commission are accused of leaking documents to two reporters who published blockbuster books detailing Vatican waste, mismanagement and greed among some cardinals and bishops. The two reporters are also on trial for having published the material — accusations that have drawn scorn from media rights groups around the world.
The groups have urged the Vatican to drop the charges against reporters Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, who face eight years in prison if convicted.
Francis acknowledged that journalists have an important role to play in uncovering injustice and corruption.
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