Rajoy Says Princess Cristina Innocent Before Graft Testimony

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Princess Cristina is innocent of corruption allegations less than three weeks before she is due to testify as a suspect in court.

“I’m absolutely convinced that things will go well for her,” Rajoy said in an interview with Antena 3 late yesterday. “I’m convinced of her innocence.”

The decision to name Cristina, seventh in line to the Spanish throne, as a suspect in the investigation of her husband’s business activities escalated the institutional crisis facing Spain amid a series of corruption cases involving politicians, executives and unions. The public prosecutor, who reports to Rajoy’s Justice Ministry, has criticized the move by Judge Jose Castro, calling the allegations a “conspiracy theory.”

El Mundo newspaper, which made Rajoy’s comment on the princess the lead story on its front page today, said in an editorial that the premier had reinforced suspicions that Cristina would receive preferential treatment.

Separate Powers

“Everyone wants to protect the crown,” Enrique Vallines, a law professor at Madrid’s Complutense University, said in a telephone interview. “But this is a mistake, both in terms of the separation of powers and the respect that the executive branch should show for the courts.”

A spokeswoman for Rajoy declined to comment.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron was criticized by a British judge after voicing support for television chef Nigella Lawson during the trial of her former personal assistants in December.

“It is of regret when people in public office comment about a person who is involved in a trial which is in progress,” Judge Robin Johnson told jurors at the trial where Lawson testified as a witness, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Princess Cristina is due to testify in court in the Balearic Islands on Feb. 8. She is “absolutely convinced of her innocence,” her lawyer, Miquel Roca, said in televised comments to reporters last week.

Princess Cristina, the King’s younger daughter and sister of Crown Prince Felipe, should resist calls to give up her royal privileges, Rajoy said.

“I have to respect, as I’ve said before, the decisions of the judges and the prosecutors,” the premier said last night. “I would like, as the King very rightly said, for everyone to be equal before the law.”

“The princess also has a right to be presumed innocent,” he said.

Cristina’s husband Inaki Urdangarin, a former Olympic handball player, is suspected of fraud, embezzlement and money laundering in a probe that focuses on the non-profit Noos Institute of which he was chairman.

The institute won 5.8 million euros ($7.9 million) of contracts from the regional governments of Valencia and the Balearic Islands between 2004 and 2007 without participating in a competitive tender, ABC newspaper reported.

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