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Paris court convicts former Vatican envoy of sexual assault

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By AP
FILE: In this Jan.4, 2018 file photo, French President Emmanuel Macron greets Apostolic Nuncio to France Luigi Ventura during his New Year address to diplomats.
FILE: In this Jan.4, 2018 file photo, French President Emmanuel Macron greets Apostolic Nuncio to France Luigi Ventura during his New Year address to diplomats.   -   Copyright  Yoan Valat, Pool via AP, File
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A Paris court on Wednesday convicted a former Vatican ambassador to France of sexually assaulting five men in 2018 and 2019, and handed him a suspended 8-month prison sentence.

The path for the prosecution of 76-year-old Luigi Ventura was cleared after the Vatican lifted his immunity in July 2019. His trial in absentia started on November 10; he was not present for the verdict.

The sentence imposed Wednesday was more lenient than the 10 months the prosecution had sought.

Five men alleged that they had suffered Ventura’s “hands on the buttocks” during his public diplomatic duties in France. The case erupted in February 2019 amid multiple sex scandals affecting the Catholic Church.

Ventura has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. Sexual assault is punishable in France by up to five years' imprisonment and fines.

The former envoy had produced a doctor’s note saying it was too dangerous for him to travel from Rome to Paris for the trial amid France’s resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic.