Spain's former king Juan Carlos to get legal immunity

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's government proposed new rules on Friday to shield former king Juan Carlos of Spain from civil and criminal lawsuits in ordinary courts following his abdication in favour of his son Felipe this week.

Under the proposed measures, the former monarch will only answer to the Supreme Court, Spain's tribunal of last resort. Similar protection is afforded to high-ranking civil servants, people in political office and diplomats in Spain.

Two paternity suits were filed against Juan Carlos over a year ago, but courts did not process them because of his legal immunity as monarch. Without the new immunity rules, these cases could possibly be brought again in ordinary courts.

Juan Carlos announced on June 2 that he would step down in favour of his son, who was enthroned as King Felipe VI on Thursday. The move was seen as a bid to revive the scandal-hit monarchy at a time the country faces economic hardship.

A law passed in April gave immunity to royal consorts and heirs to the throne. The ruling centre-right People's Party (PP) proposed on Friday to amend this law to include the abdicated monarch and his wife Sofia, a government document showed.

Immunity for Juan Carlos will likely be approved within weeks by Parliament, where the PP has an absolute majority.

Other royals have also come under legal scrutiny.

Princess Cristina, the former king's daughter, is under investigation for possible tax fraud and money laundering. She does not have immunity because she is not an heir to the throne.

A judge will decide soon whether to put her husband Inaki Urdangarin on trial on charges of embezzling 6 million euros (S$10.2 million) in public funds. He and Princess Cristina both deny wrongdoing.