Lawyers for Spain’s Princess Cristina are preparing to appeal against her having to give evidence after she was charged with being an accomplice in an embezzlement case.
The princess has been ordered to appear before a judge later this month to answer allegations that she aided and abetted her husband in a six million euro fraud.
Iñaki Urdangarín has been accused of siphoning public money from regional government contracts into a non-profit-making organisation he headed from 2004 to 2006.
The unprecedented judicial move against Spain’s once untouchable royal family may be a sign that the courts are getting tougher on corruption, but legal experts say there remains much work to do.
Others are wondering how aspects of this case will affect Spanish society as a whole, and how perceptions of elite privilege might be changing.
We sought an expert’s opinion.
Beatriz Beiras, euronews: “Antonio Torres del Moral, joining us from Madrid, hello. As a professor of constitutional law at Spain’s National Distance University, can you tell us… what is the significance of the charge brought against Princess Cristina of ‘necessary cooperation’? What’s going to happen on 27 April when she goes before the judge?”
Antonio Torres del Moral: “We can’t predict, because between now and then the court might rule on the presentation by the prosecution against the charge. But just supposing the court did confirm the charge, it would mean the Princess would have to answer the judge’s questions. She probably wouldn’t have to actually appear in court. She would answer a questionnaire from her office, in writing.”
euronews: “Cristina de Borbón has already been charged in the case of her husband’s Nóos Institute, the same as the wife of her husband Iñaki Urdangarín’s associate. Does this prove that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law in Spain?”
Torres del Moral: “It proves that the justice system is working acceptably well. We can’t generalise and say it always works in this way. But in this case, which is highly sensitive, it is. Some politicians repeatedly said it would never come to court, insisting that justice was not the same for everyone. Well, this charge refutes that, and even the daughter of the King has been charged, with the possibility later of being judged. But that remains to be seen.”
euronews: “The Princess Cristina is seventh in the order of succession to the throne. Her being charged is unprecedented in the history of Spain’s parliamentary monarchy. What might the consequences be for the throne as an institution, and for the King as the Spanish Head of State?”
Torres del Moral: “For several years already, or at least two years, various stories have undermined the credibility of the monarchy and the authority that the King has exercised since 1975. It is suffering from a reducing effect, which is politically serious for the monarchy, and therefore for Spain, because this is the political system the state has. The King did have authority, had enormous prestige, both nationally and internationally. I believe he still has it internationally. But inside Spain, whereas before he was overwhelmingly accepted, now his very position in office is being questioned.”
euronews: “If it turns out that the King knew about the activities in question, is there any provision in Spanish law to call him to answer in the courts?”
Torres del Moral: “No, no. The monarch is untouchable. He can’t appear before any judiciary organ. Justice is delivered in the King’s name, and therefore it would make no sense. The King can’t submit to a justice that is administered in his name.”
euronews: “Do you believe it would be feasible for the King to appear in the Cortes, parliament – where national sovereignty resides – as some commentators are suggesting he should.”
Torres del Moral: “If the King feels the need to say something, it would be normal that he do so as head of the Royal Household as an institution. The Household of the King can speak with the knowledge of the King, but he doesn’t go to the Cortes to speak, to answer questions or submit to an interrogation. That’s just not how the monarchy works, that’s the way it is. If we want it like that, we keep it. If we don’t, we ditch it. But we can’t have a Republican monarchy. That’s not compatible with the concept of a parliamentary monarchy.”