MADRID (AP) – Spain is preparing a form of legal indemnity to cover King Juan Carlos once he abdicates the throne in favor of his son.
When 46-year-old Prince Felipe takes over as head of state on Thursday — he will become Felipe VI — the 76-year-old Juan Carlos will lose the legal cover he has enjoyed since becoming king in 1975.
Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria says the new indemnity should shield Juan Carlos, who in retirement retains his title of king, from legal probes. Any possible legal case involving him would be examined by the Supreme Court, which has a much higher threshold for evidence.
His immunity stopped two lawsuits in 2012 seeking to have the king undergo two paternity tests.
Juan Carlos became king two days after the death of longtime dictator Gen. Francisco Franco who had named him as his successor. He earned massive popular support by rejecting a 1981 coup attempt, thus ensuring a smooth transition to democracy, but his popularity of late has been dented by scandals involving him and his family.
He sparked public anger by taking a secret elephant hunting trip to Botswana in 2012 at the height of Spain's financial crisis.
The monarchy's standing was also hurt by a criminal investigation into the king's son-in-law, Inaki Urdangarin, on suspicion of embezzling large amounts of money. Juan Carlos' youngest daughter, Princess Cristina, was required to testify as a named suspect in the fraud and money-laundering case targeting her husband.
In his 2012 Christmas address, Juan Carlos tried to distance himself from the scandal, saying "justice is equal for all."
Now, some politicians like Pedro Sanchez of the opposition Socialist Party say Juan Carlos should stand by those words and allow his immunity to be eliminated.