VATICAN CITY - Paolo Gabriele, Pope Benedict's butler who was arrested in May on charges of leaking sensitive documents, will remain in a Vatican police station "safe room" at least until an investigation ends in a few weeks, the Vatican said on Thursday.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters a Vatican prosecutor was expected to end a formal investigation in a few weeks and decide whether to clear the butler or order him to stand trial.
The Vatican, which has no jail, had decided to keep Gabriele in a "safe room" for now. His lawyers had called for him to be transferred to house arrest.
Under Vatican law, a defendant can be held up to 50 days before a trial, a period which could be doubled to a maximum of 100 days in some cases.
Lombardi said the fact Gabriele had not been released after the first 50 days, however, did not automatically mean he would stay in custody for another 50 days.
He said a Vatican magistrate would continue questioning Gabriele "for about another 10 days" and later reach his conclusion.
Any eventual trial would not be held before September, Lombardi added.
He said a commission of three cardinals leading a separate investigation would deliver their report directly to the pope in the next few days.
The "safe room" in which Gabriele is being held measures 3.5 by 4 metres, and has a single small window and a separate bathroom. The room contains a crucifix and the pope's former butler is allowed to regularly attend mass.
Gabriele, 46, who has dual Vatican and Italian citizenship, was arrested as part of a Vatican investigation into what is known as the "Vatileaks" scandal, in which sensitive papal documents were leaked to Italian media.
Many documents were found in his apartment in the Vatican.
Vatican insiders believe the butler, who served the pope his meals, helped him dress and rode in the front seat of the popemobile, could not have acted alone and may be a pawn in a much wider power struggle between cardinals.
The leaked documents allege corruption in the Vatican's business dealings with Italian companies, which were paid inflated prices for work in the Vatican, rivalries among cardinals and clashes over the management of the Vatican's bank, known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR).
For now, Gabriele is formally charged with aggravated theft, which carries a jail sentence of up to six years. But other offences, such as revealing state secrets, could be added to the list of charges before the investigation ends.