VATICAN CITY (AP) — An Italian journalist testified Wednesday that he never pressured a Vatican monsignor to give him confidential documents and said it was his obligation as a journalist to publish them because they were in the public interest.
Gianluigi Nuzzi was the fifth and final defendant to testify in the Vatican's trial over leaked documents that exposed greed, waste and mismanagement in the Holy See administration.
Nuzzi and another journalist, Emiliano Fittipaldi, wrote blockbuster books last year based on confidential Vatican information. They are on trial along with a former high-ranking Vatican official accused of leaking the documents and two other people. All five face up to eight years in prison if convicted.
Vatican prosecutors have accused Nuzzi and Fittipaldi of exerting pressure on Monsignor Angelo Lucio Vallejo Balda, the No. 2 of a papal reform commission, to compel him to hand over the commission's documentation about the Holy See's finances.
Nuzzi told the court Wednesday he did nothing of the sort. He said Vallejo wanted the information out because he feared the reform effort might be "boycotted" by Vatican officials opposed to it.
Nuzzi defended his decision to then publish the documentation as the duty of any journalist.
"I chose to be a journalist and when you are given information, it's your duty to publish it. You can't escape that," he testified. "What was I supposed to do in the face of these documents: Keep them in a drawer? If a colleague ever found that out that I had the documents and hadn't used them, they would have spit in my face."
Nuzzi insisted that none of the material compromised the Vatican's state interests or security, and that all were in the public interest.
"I wrote about privilege, I wrote about off-the-books accounts, about bad administration," he said. "I am convinced that this was relevant to the public."
Media rights groups around the world have criticized the Vatican for putting the journalists on trial and have called on prosecutors to drop the charges. The Vatican City State in 2013 criminalized the publication of confidential documents after Nuzzi wrote an earlier book, also based on internal documents, which were passed to him by then-Pope Benedict XVI's butler.
Some say that scandal helped accelerate Benedict's decision to resign. The butler was convicted of stealing the documents but was ultimately pardoned by Benedict.
Daniela Petroff contributed.