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Court hearing delayed for Spain's Princess Cristina in corruption scandal

By Al Goodman, CNN
April 5, 2013 -- Updated 1519 GMT (2319 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Princess Cristina had been subpoenaed to appear in court April 27
  • A prosecutor filed an appeal, saying there is insufficient evidence to cite her
  • Princess Cristina is King Juan Carlos' youngest daughter
  • The fraud case centers on her husband, Inaki Urdangarin

Madrid (CNN) -- An unprecedented court hearing for Spain's Princess Cristina in a financial corruption scandal, scheduled for April 27, was postponed Friday after a prosecutor filed an appeal, judicial officials said.

No new date for the hearing was immediately set, because a three-judge panel must first resolve the conflict between the view of the judge who issued the subpoena that there is sufficient evidence to cite the princess as a suspect, and the prosecutor's view that there is not, the officials said.

Princess Cristina is King Juan Carlos' youngest daughter.

This is the first time since democracy was restored in Spain in 1975 that a member of King Juan Carlos' immediate family has faced preliminary charges of any kind, in any case, a spokesman for the Royal Household said.

What does Princess Cristina know?

On Wednesday, the investigating magistrate, Judge Jose Castro, issued the 18-page order that brought preliminary charges against Princess Cristina in a fraud case centered on her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, the king's son-in-law.

Urdangarin has faced preliminary charges for more than a year. He is accused of diverting, for private use, public funds earmarked for his non-profit foundation. He denies any wrongdoing.

The scandal already had created unprecedented problems for the popular royal family due to Urdangarin's alleged involvement, but after the princess was also named as a suspect, it became top news at home and abroad.

On Friday, prosecutor Pedro Horrach filed his appeal to Castro's local court in Palma de Mallorca, in Spain's Balearic Islands. A higher provincial court in Palma must decide if the princess will remain a suspect in the case.

If she does, the princess has chosen two top lawyers, the Royal Household announced on Friday. One is Miquel Roca, a Barcelona-based former politician who helped write Spain's Constitution of 1978. The other is well-known criminal lawyer Jesus Maria Silva.

The Royal Household initially said on Wednesday it wouldn't comment on judicial matters, but later in the day announced that it was surprised that the judge -- who last year said in an order that there was insufficient evidence to name the princess as a suspect -- had changed his mind.

In his order, the judge said that further investigation since last year had led to the decision to bring preliminary charges against the princess.

Castro's order said Princess Cristina should be questioned regarding "the handling and destination of funds obtained" through her husband's foundation and a separate company

The Royal Household also said on Wednesday that it was in "absolute conformity" with the prosecutor's announcement that he would appeal.

The main opposition Socialist Party has called on the Royal Household to remain neutral in the legal battle between the judge and prosecutor over the evidence regarding the princess.

On Thursday, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo told reporters that the case is hurting the image of Spain.

On Friday, the Royal Household made public for the first time that it had quietly asked the government, two months ago, to include the monarchy in a new law on transparency -- regarding financing and other activities -- that is currently being debated and pending approval, a Royal Household senior spokesman said

Urdangarin was given the title of Duke of Palma when he married Princess Cristina in 1997.

An adviser to the Royal Household also has been implicated in the scandal.

Earlier this year, a judge ordered Urdangarin and a former business associate, Diego Torrres, to deposit a joint bond of €8 million (about $10.8 million) for potential civil damages. If not, the judge would move to embargo the assets of the two men, a court spokeswoman said.

No trial has been set in the case. The preliminary charges that have been announced could eventually be dropped, but a filing of indictments would set a trial in motion.

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