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Spain king's brother-in-law might not have to go to jail after all

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Spain king's brother-in-law might not have to go to jail after all
Inaki Urdangarin arrives to the courthouse in Palma de Mallorca on February 23rd 2017. Photo: AFP
12:18 CET+01:00
The brother-in-law of Spain's king, who was handed six years and three months jail for syphoning off millions, will remain free and not be required to post bail as he prepares to appeal his sentence, a court said on Thursday.

the news made waves in Spain, where the corruption scandal involving Inaki Urdangarin sparked outrage at a time when the country was going through a devastating crisis, becoming a symbol of the elite's perceived corruption.

The decision by a court in Palma on the island of Majorca came in response to a request from prosecutors that Urdangarin be allowed to remain temporarily free if he pays bail of 200,000 euros ($211,000), rather than go straight to prison.

The court also said Urdangarin, a former Olympic handball player who is married to Spain's Princess Cristina, could stay in Switzerland where he currently lives with his wife and their four children until all possible appeals are exhausted.

When the 49-year-old left the court, angry protesters shouted "chorizo" at him, a word that literally refers to a spicy Spanish sausage but also means "thief".

Cristina had also been accused of involvement in the scandal over her husband's business dealings while he was head of the Noos Institute, a not-for-profit sports foundation, on suspicion of helping him evade taxes.

But on Friday, following a long-running and high-profile trial, she was acquitted.

Her husband though was sentenced to jail for using his royal connections to win inflated public contracts to stage sporting and other events, and then syphoning off the proceeds to fund a lavish lifestyle.

The fact that both stood trial was seen as unprecedented in a country that had long protected its elites.

And when Urdangarin was handed the sentence, newspapers started speculating as to what prison conditions could be like for the former Duke of Palma.

The court said however that while Urdangarin would remain free during the appeal process, he would have to check into a Swiss court every month, and report any trips out of the European Union as well as any residency change.

'Injustice'

Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Spain's far-left Podemos party, reacted angrily to the news, saying "injustice is different for everyone".

"Songs will be written about his sentence and their authors will be condemned," he tweeted.

He was referring to this week's much-talked-about sentencing of Spanish rapper Valtonyc, handed three-and-a-half years in prison for songs that were deemed to insult the crown and apologise for terrorism via references to Basque separatist group ETA.

Iglesias was not the only critic to draw angry parallels between Valtonyc's sentence, seen by some as a breach of freedom of expression, and Urdangarin's temporary reprieve for syphoning of millions of euros.

"A rapper in jail for singing a song about the king whose brother-in-law won't go to prison for stealing," tweeted journalist Hibai Arbide Aza.

Urdangarin's lawyers have until February 28th to launch an appeal against his sentence.

If they do, the Supreme Court will then need several months to make a final ruling on a case that has shamed the royal family.It soured the last years of the reign of king Juan Carlos, who gave up the throne in June 2014 after 39 years, hoping his son Felipe VI who replaced him could freshen up the image of the monarchy.

Since it erupted, Urdangarin and Cristina have been excluded from all of the family's official public appearances.

King Felipe VI also stripped them of their titles of duchess and duke of Palma.

By Laurence Boutreaux

READ ALSO: Princess Cristina acquitted in royal fraud trial but husband jailed

 

 

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