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Papal butler's alleged accomplice goes on trial on November 5

The Pope's butler, Paolo Gabriele (bottom L) arrives with Pope Benedict XVI (R) at St. Peter's Square in Vatican, in this file photo taken M
The Pope's butler, Paolo Gabriele (bottom L) arrives with Pope Benedict XVI (R) at St. Peter's Square in Vatican, in this file photo taken M

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A Vatican computer expert will go on trial on November 5 for aiding and abetting the pope's former butler Paolo Gabriele, who was convicted this month of stealing papal documents, a spokesman for the Holy See said on Tuesday.

Claudio Sciarpelletti, a close friend of Gabriele, works in the Vatican's Secretariat of State, equivalent to the prime minister's office.

Gabriele received an 18-month custodial sentence after admitting to leaking highly sensitive papers, including letters to the pope, that alleged corruption in the Vatican's business dealings.

The leaks caused a crisis for the Holy See as it tried to distance itself from a series of scandals,

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told a briefing following the release of the full judgment on Gabriele that Sciarpelletti's trial would begin on November 5.

The 15-page ruling rejected Gabriele's argument that he had acted to help the Church, saying his actions had been "harmful to the workings of the Vatican and to the person of the Pope".

Lombardi said there were still some days left for Gabriele to appeal against his sentence, and that there was a "possibility" that Pope Benedict could pardon his former manservant at some point in the future.

If neither happened, Gabriele would be imprisoned in a cell which "has been outfitted at the police barracks" inside the Vatican, Lombardi said. Previously Gabriele's lawyer had said he would serve the sentence under house arrest.

In the past, the Vatican has played down Sciarpelletti's role, and has said he would face only a "light sentence" if convicted. He spent one night in jail when he was arrested in May, and was suspended from his job but not fired.

(Reporting by Naomi O'Leary; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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