Spain's Princess Cristina, daughter of King Juan Carlos, leaves… (Toni Albir / European Press…)
MADRID -- In a surprise turnaround, a judge Friday suspended a criminal summons of the king of Spain's youngest daughter, citing discrimination against the princess.
The 47-year-old royal, known as Infanta Cristina, is accused of having knowledge of or possible involvement in alleged corruption by her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin. He is a former Olympic handball champion being investigated for allegedly embezzling millions of dollars in public funds through sports charities he ran.
The stay comes two days after Cristina became the first direct descendant of a Spanish monarch to be summoned in a criminal case. On Wednesday, a court on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca subpoenaed her to testify April 27 in the investigation of her husband. Such proceedings are similar to a U.S. grand jury; neither Cristina nor Urdangarin has been charged.
But Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo told reporters Thursday that the government was "enormously worried" about damage to Spain's image and urged the court to resolve the princess' case quickly.
Judge Pedro Horrach suspended the subpoena Friday until a final judgment could be made on an appeal.
In his 20-page ruling, the judge said it was "discriminatory" to name the princess a suspect and to summon her after investigators originally decided months ago not to call her to testify. He cited a "lack of incriminating evidence" against her.
Testifying twice in his defense, Urdangarin previously told the court that his wife and his father-in-law, King Juan Carlos, had no role in his activities at Noos Institute, a nonprofit umbrella group he headed from 2004 to 2006. Urdangarin and a former business partner, Diego Torres, are accused of siphoning off at least $6.4 million in public donations intended to fund sports and cultural events organized through Noos.
But subpoenaed emails from Torres suggest the princess and king may have known more. Some emails reportedly reveal that Urdangarin boasted of his close business relationship with the king and asked Cristina for advice in his affairs.
King Juan Carlos has long been credited with keeping Spain intact through its transition to democracy after the 1975 death of military dictator Francisco Franco. But his popularity has waned in recent years. Last spring, he was forced to issue an unprecedented apology for going elephant hunting in Africa while his country is mired in recession.
North Korea plays a weak hand to advantage
Spanish princess called to testify in corruption probe
Prime Minister Cameron argues to keep Britain's nuclear arsenal