mercredi 9 juillet 2014

Plan to Give Former King Immunity Splits Spain

MADRID — When he gave up the Spanish throne recently after nearly four decades, Juan Carlos I forfeited some perks and privileges, not least among them immunity from legal proceedings. And in the weeks since his son Felipe took the crown, Juan Carlos has gotten a glimpse of what it might be like to be treated by the courts like any other citizen, including the threat of two paternity suits.

But the former king’s exposure to legal liability is likely to be limited. On Thursday, the Spanish Parliament is scheduled to give final approval to legislation declaring that he can only be tried by the country’s Supreme Court. In the process, the governing Popular Party has ignited a fresh debate over the fairness of the practice of shielding government officials from prosecution, especially at a time when nearly every major Spanish institution, from the royal family down, has been caught up in corruption cases.

In relation to the United States and some other European nations, Spain is more generous in granting legal protection to its officials. About 10,000 lawmakers, judges, police officers and other civil servants have some form of special legal rights that allow them to be tried only by the country’s highest courts, rather than by ordinary tribunals.

In the wake of the debate triggered by the legal status of Juan Carlos, the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced recently a broader review of Spain’s legal protection system, which is likely to limit its reach.

The review comes at a sensitive time, not only because of the royal handover but also because Spain’s courts are overloaded with corruption cases, many of which have come to the surface following the bursting of the country’s construction bubble in 2008. One of the main cases has landed on the very doorstep of Mr. Rajoy, when his party’s former treasurer, Luis Bárcenas, was imprisoned ahead of a trial over whether he hid millions of euros in Swiss banks while running a slush fund to pay Mr. Rajoy and other senior party officials kickbacks from builders and other companies. Mr. Rajoy and other politicians have denied wrongdoing.

The proposal to grant Juan Carlos protection covering both criminal and civil lawsuits has upset opposition lawmakers and divided legal experts.

Juan Manuel Gómez Benítez, a former judge who now works for a private law firm, noted that officials lose their protected status once out of office, just as he lost his special status once he left the bench. But such protection, he added, had also never previously extended as far as civil lawsuits.

“The king who has abdicated is nothing more than a former head of state and as such should not get any protection,” Mr. Gómez Benítez said. “The government and its parliamentary group have acted against the constitutional principles that guarantee equality before the law and prohibit arbitrary usage of public powers.”

The government, however, has strongly defended Juan Carlos. His legal protection is “reasonable, fair and sensible,” Mr. Rajoy said last month.

Mr. Gómez Benítez suggested that the protection being considered for Juan Carlos also reflected concerns that the monarchy was already embroiled in a corruption case centered on Iñaki Urdangarin, Juan Carlos’s son-in-law. Last month, Mr. Urdangarin, some of his business associates and several regional officials were charged with embezzling millions of euros in public funds that had been meant to pay for sports events. The judge handling the case also accused Mr. Urdangarin’s wife, Princess Cristina, of tax fraud and money laundering.

Juan Carlos has not been implicated in the sports corruption case. But his image has been tainted by revelations of a sort that were previously taboo for the Spanish media. In April 2012, for instance, Juan Carlos was forced to make a public apology after going elephant hunting as Spain was enduring deep austerity.

In his speech last month when he was proclaimed king, Felipe VI, who is 46, promised transparency and integrity as part of “a renovated monarchy for a new time.”

But almost coinciding with that speech, Albert Solà Jiménez, a Catalan waiter, moved ahead with a paternity suit against Juan Carlos that was rejected two years ago because the king had immunity as head of state at that time. A Belgian woman, Ingrid Sartiau, is separately also renewing her legal efforts to support her assertion that Juan Carlos is her father.

Francesc Bueno Celdrán, the lawyer representing Mr. Solà, said the protected status of Juan Carlos was “bad news and good news” — bad in that he expected the Supreme Court to rule eventually against his client, but good in that any ruling could then be appealed before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The Strasbourg-based court, Mr. Bueno Celdrán suggested, “should be far less politicized than Spain’s judiciary.”

Mr. Solà's lawsuit includes as evidence a laboratory test that matches his DNA to that found on a cup that was allegedly used by Juan Carlos and stolen by one of his security agents, according to Mr. Bueno Celdrán. The royal household did not immediately return a request for comment on the paternity claims.

Mr. Solà, who is 57, was adopted by a farming family. He said that he was not interested in the Spanish throne, and that his lawsuit was not seeking financial compensation.

“I’m asking for recognition, nothing more,” he said.

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lundi 7 juillet 2014

Novak Djokovic: ‘It’s the best grand slam final I have ever played’

• Wimbledon champion thrilled at overcoming ‘mental challenge’
• Djokovic admits his poor run in finals was on his mind

A jubilant Novak Djokovic said his mental strength was the key to winning Wimbledon for a second time, describing his five-set victory over the seven-times champion Roger Federer as the “best grand slam final I have played in my career”. The Serb, who let slip a two-sets-to-one and 5-2 lead as Federer forced a deciding set, held his nerve in the final set to clinch a 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 5-7, 6-4 victory, giving him a seventh grand slam title and denying Federer what would have been a record eighth win at the All England Club.
Djokovic, who become world No 1 when the rankings are updated on Monday, said he had been through the mill, mentally, as Federer hit back in the fourth set, winning five straight games to clinch it and take the match into a deciding set. “That’s why this victory meant so much to me,” Djokovic told the BBC. “First of all, because it was against a great rival on his court and also considering the fact that I had lost three out of [his past] four grand slam finals.”
Having failed to serve out for the title at 5-3, Djokovic had match point on the Federer serve at 4-5 but the Swiss held firm and then broke again to extend the match before Djokovic recovered his poise to edge Federer in the fifth thanks to one break, in the 10th and final game.
“I would be lying if I said it was not in my mind,” he said, of his poor run, having lost five of his past six grand slam finals. “Of course it started playing with my confidence and I had some doubts. Of course people told me things, trying to help, but I managed to overcome this and I was the one to find a way. Today was a huge test, a mental challenge. We pushed each other to the limit and I could not drop concentration throughout the whole match to win it. That’s why it was extra special.”
Djokovic remained calm throughout, keeping his focus and concentration even when Federer threatened to become the oldest winner in the Open era, at 32. The Serb, with his coach Boris Becker watching on, snatched victory and now sits alongside such asJohn McEnroe, Mats Wilander and John Newcombe on seven grand slams. Playing in the same era as Federer, who has 17, and Rafael Nadal, with 14, it is an incredible achievement.

The 27-year-old said winning for a second time was even more special than the first. “This is a tournament I always dreamed of winning, so it never gets boring winning Wimbledon that’s for sure,” he said. “Winning in 2011 was the highlight of my career but this win over Roger is probably the best grand slam final I have ever played in my life.
“I overcame a lot of challenges, in my life and tennis career in the last two years and that’s why I had tears of joy. That’s why it was very emotional for me to rewind the memories of what we have been through in the last three years and what we’ve been through as a team.
“There are some private things I went through, that I won’t talk about now, but it wasn’t easy. Everyone has issues so you have to understand how to deal with them, grow as a person, strengthen your character and manage to win grand slams. You can’t separate yourself a as person and professional tennis player. It’s the same person who walks on the court, so if your mind is not clear you won’t be able to compete on a high level.”
Having missed the chance to close out the match in four sets – and having missed set points in the first – Djokovic showed enormous mental fortitude to gather himself at the start of the decider, something he was also proud of.
“After I lost the fourth set, I knew the only way to win in the fifth was to try to find that inner strength and not get carried away by emotions, even though I had plenty of opportunities to fade away,” he said.
“It was an incredible match to be part of and very proud of what I achieved. We pushed each other to the limit, had a lot of great points from the baseline. When I was serving for the match, the only way he could come back was by being aggressive and that’s what he did, came to the net, served very precisely.

“On the last match point I wasn’t really thinking of the importance of the point because I had so many opportunities to win the match beforehand; match point, being a break up twice, so I told myself to focus one point at a time. It’s not easy when the result can go either way. The only way to win it is to stay mentally strong because that’s what he does the best.”
Djokovic also paid tribute to the impact the three-times Wimbledon champion Becker has had on his game, getting him over the line in a grand slam once more. “It’s a team victory in the end,” he said. “I know I am by myself on the court but I appreciate what they are doing for me. They show their support day in day out.
“I’m sorry Marian [Vajda, his long-term coach] wasn’t able to see this match live but of course we’re in touch every single day and he’s been working very close with Boris. I’m very happy to win a grand slam with Boris because many people doubted him.”

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