January 14, 2015 / 5:03 PM / 4 years ago

Spanish court to hear paternity suit against ex-King Juan Carlos

Spain's former king Juan Carlos (C) arrives to attends a funeral mass for the late Duchess of Alba Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva in Madrid December 15, 2014. REUTERS/Alberto Martin/Pool

MADRID (Reuters) - A Spanish court agreed on Wednesday to hear a paternity suit brought against ex-King Juan Carlos by 48-year-old Belgian Ingrid Sartiau in a further embarrassing episode for Spain’s royal family.

Juan Carlos, the father of King Felipe VI, abdicated last year in a move aimed at restoring the monarchy’s popularity. A string of scandals had identified the royals as woefully out of touch, including a secret, luxury elephant-hunting trip by Juan Carlos in Africa at the height of Spain’s economic crisis.

The abdication of the 78-year-old former king, who has had health problems and walks with a cane after multiple hip operations, led to the loss of his judicial immunity.

Sartiau says that Juan Carlos, a once-popular monarch who reigned for almost 40 years, is her father. A palace spokesman declined comment on the case on Wednesday.

The court rejected another paternity case brought against the former king by a 58-year-old Spanish man, Albert Sola, saying it did not meet legal requirements.

Spanish lawmakers rushed through legislation after his abdication to prevent Juan Carlos being tried in ordinary courts. However, he can still be tried in the highest Spanish court, the Supreme Court.

Although King Felipe consistently scores highly in opinion polls, his family continues to draw unwelcome headlines. His sister, Cristina de Borbon, is due to stand trial on tax fraud charges in the second half of this year.

(This version of the story corrects woman’s surname in paragraph 4)

Reporting by Raquel Castillo; Writing by Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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