Spain lawmakers approve legal protections for ex-king

Spain lawmakers approve legal protections for ex-king
Spain's King Felipe (L) and his father Spain's former King Juan Carlos

MADRID - Spanish lawmakers Thursday approved controversial new legal protections for ex-king Juan Carlos, who lost his total immunity when he quit the throne.

Juan Carlos left himself open to possible court action, including a paternity suit brought by a man claiming to be his son, when he gave up the throne last week after 39 years for his heir, King Felipe VI.

Now ruling party politicians have slipped in amendments to a pending judicial reform to assure Juan Carlos new judicial privileges as quickly as possible.

The ruling Popular Party which holds a majority in the parliament pushed them through despite reluctance from opposition lawmakers.

The bill passed with 184 votes in favour, 109 abstentions and 32 votes against. It now goes to the upper house Senate for its approval at an unspecified date.

Under the new measures, only the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, will be qualified to hear cases against Juan Carlos.

They also extend the privilege to Spain's new queen, Felipe's wife Letizia, and his eight-year-old daughter and heir Leonor, Princess of Asturias.

The main opposition Socialist Party supports legal protections for the ex-king but abstained in Thursday's vote, complaining the law was being rushed through without a proper debate.

Other groups said the ex-king should be accountable like any other citizen.

Juan Carlos's former constitutional immunity thwarted two lawsuits in October 2012 by people claiming he fathered them before becoming king. One of the plaintiffs, Albert Sola Jimenez, has an appeal pending.

It remains unclear whether the Supreme Court would hear a paternity suit such as Sola's or what other kinds of legal action the king might face.

Juan Carlos's youngest daughter Cristina is facing fraud allegations that have damaged the monarchy's popularity. A judge on Wednesday upheld those charges against her, meaning she may now be sent to trial.

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