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 CNS Story:

VATICAN-DRUGS Jan-15-2008 (290 words) xxxi

After cocaine bust and trial, Vatican judge calls for anti-drug law

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A Vatican judge has called for the enactment of an anti-drug law in Vatican City after an employee was caught with 87 grams of cocaine.

When the employee went on trial last year, authorities realized that the Vatican had no specific law to deal with the possession and sale of illegal drugs.

Nicola Picardi, promoter of justice in the tribunal of Vatican City State, cited the case Jan. 12 when he opened the new judicial year at the Vatican.

Picardi said the employee, who worked for the Vatican City governor's office, was eventually tried under a Vatican-Italian treaty that allows the Vatican to impose a penalty of up to six months' imprisonment in some ambiguous circumstances. In this case, the employee received the maximum sentence.

In this way, the court was able to prevent Vatican City from turning into "a free zone for drug users and dealers," Picardi said. But the procedure used is problematic, and the six-month maximum penalty is clearly not harsh enough, he said.

"This is a sanction that is completely inadequate to the seriousness of the crime and not in line with the legislation of other states," he said.

The employee has appealed the Vatican decision and is meanwhile serving time in Italy for a separate offense, Picardi told Catholic News Service.

If the Vatican conviction is upheld, the man probably would serve prison time in Italy for the offense, because of an agreement between the Vatican and Italy.

The Vatican still maintains its own prison, but it is rarely used, Picardi said. It is located just to the south of St. Peter's Basilica, off St. Martha's Square, he said.


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