Spanish paedophile freed by Moroccan King

The Moroccan King's recent decision to pardon a Spanish paedophile has caused outrage in the north African country.

Spanish paedophile freed by Moroccan King
King Mohammed VI of Morocco delivers a speech on July 30 in Casablanca marking his 14 years anniveresary on the throne. File photo: Moroccan Press Agency/AFP

Morocco's King Mohamad VI released 48 Spanish prisoners in the wake of a recent visit by King Juan Carlos of Spain to the country.

But the magnanimous gestured has backfired after it emerged one of the freed prisoners was a Spanish paedophile serving a 30-year sentences for sexually assaulting 11 children.

A lawyer for the families of the victims, said the Spaniard had raped children aged from four to 15 and filmed the act.

But the paedophile was released on Morocco's annual Throne Day, which celebrates Morocco's ruling family. 

The man's lawyer, Mohamed Benjeddou, confirmed on the Lakome news site that his client was among the list of prisoners pardoned by the Moroccan King.

Benjeddou expressed his "surprise" that his client had been released but said "the King's decisions are not discussed". 

The lawyer said the paedophile had been handed back his passport on Wednesday, only a day after the pardons were announced.

He had now left the country, the lawyer confirmed.

The decision to release the serial paedophile has unleashed a storm of protest with activists calling for a protest in the Moroccan capital of Rabat on Friday.

There were also a wave of social media activity in the north African country.

"The King's pardon is a second rape for the victims," said a woman identifying herself as Meryem El said on Twitter in an Arabic language tweet that has seen numerous retweets .

'Is this Morocco's way to reach the long-sought target of 10 million tourists a year?' asked blogger Nouhad Fathi on her Facebook wall in a message cited by the UK's Daily Mail.

Spain's El Diario newspaper on Friday cited sources from Spain's royal family as saying "nothing can be done".

"This is an internal decision. We aren't going to do anything."

El Diario also cited the Spanish Ministry of Justice saying: "If he hasn't committed a crime in Spain we can't carry out preventative monitoring."

The country's Department of Public Prosecutions, meanwhile, said: "We can't judge him again."

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‘Alone and bored’: A year after exile, legal woes haunt Spain’s ex-king

A year after Spain's former King Juan Carlos went into self-imposed exile in the face of mounting questions over his finances, he remains under a cloud of suspicion that complicates his return home.

'Alone and bored': A year after exile, legal woes haunt Spain's ex-king
Juan Carlos I's close ties with Gulf leaders have allowed him to live in opulent exile in Abu Dhabi for a year. Photo: KARIM SAHIB / AFP

He announced on August 3, 2020 he was moving abroad to prevent his personal affairs from undermining his son King Felipe VI’s reign and sullying the monarchy.

But his choice of new home — the United Arab Emirates, where some of his business affairs triggered the scandals that tainted his reputation in the first place — only raised Spaniards’ eyebrows further.

Juan Carlos has told his son that he would like to return to Spain “but he won’t come back without the approval” of the royal household, said Jose Apezarena, the author of several books on Felipe.

And the position of the royals is that “until his legal problems end, he should not return”, Apezarena told AFP.

The 83-year-old former king is the target of three separate investigations over his financial dealings, including those linked to a high-speed rail contract in Saudi Arabia that was awarded to a Spanish consortium.

Prosecutors in Spain and Switzerland are looking into suspicions he received kickbacks for facilitating the deal.

The suspicions centre on $100 million (€85 million) that Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah allegedly deposited in 2008 into a Swiss bank account to which Juan Carlos had access.

The other two investigations concern the alleged existence of a trust fund in Jersey linked to Juan Carlos and the undeclared use of credit cards linked to accounts not registered in his name, a possible money-laundering offence.

‘Very bored’

Spanish monarchs have immunity during their reign but Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014 following a series of health problems and embarrassing revelations about his personal life, leaving himself vulnerable to prosecution.

While he has not been charged with any crime, the probes have tainted his reputation as a leader of Spain’s democratic transition following the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.

Outside of the Royal Palace in central Madrid, opinions were divided.

“He is being judged without any evidence, he should be able to come home if that’s what he wants,” said Pura Fernandez, 46, a bank worker.

But delivery rider Angel Galan, 27, was less sympathetic.

“He may have done some great things for Spain but if he committed irregularities I am not sad that he is gone,” he said.

While in exile, Juan Carlos has twice settled tax debts with Spanish authorities for a total of more than €5 million.

But he has otherwise kept a low profile at the villa on the island of Nurai off the coast of Abu Dhabi where he now lives.

“He is alone and very bored,” said Apezarena.


‘Not normal’

When reports emerged in February that Juan Carlos was in poor heath, the former monarch told online Spanish daily OKDiario he was “well, exercising two hours daily” in his only comments to the media since moving abroad.

Abel Hernández, a journalist and expert on the monarchy, said he believes Juan Carlos will return to Spain by the end of the year.

“He has not been charged with anything and has regularised his situation with the tax office. It does not seem normal that he remains outside of the country,” Hernández told AFP.

The scandals swirling around Juan Carlos have provided ammunition for those wanting to abolish the monarchy.

The far-left party Podemos, which is the junior partner in Spain’s coalition government, has called for a parliamentary investigation into Juan Carlos’s wealth.

Felipe, meanwhile, has sought to distance himself from his father.

Last year the king renounced his inheritance from Juan Carlos, and stripped the ex-monarch of his palace allowance after new details of his allegedly shady dealings emerged.

Polls show support for the monarchy has inched up since Juan Carlos moved abroad although a survey published Sunday in conservative daily La Razon found 42.9 percent of Spaniards feel Juan Carlos’s legal woes were hurting Felipe’s reign.