JUDICIAL SCANDAL

King avoids Dívar by bowing out of Supreme Court ceremony

Palace cites trip to Jeddah to visit grieving Saudi royals as excuse

King Juan Carlos canceled his scheduled appearance on Monday at the Spanish Supreme Court's bicentennial ceremony, over which Chief Justice Carlos Dívar is due to preside. The Zarzuela Palace announced Sunday that the king had to suddenly change his agenda to travel to Jeddah to offer his personal condolences to the Saudi royal family after the death on Saturday of Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz.

The change in schedule comes as Dívar finds himself ever more isolated over growing demands for his resignation, after it emerged that taxpayers footed a bill of nearly 30,000 euros for 32 long weekend trips he has taken to Marbella and other luxury Spanish destinations since coming to office in 2008.

The Zarzuela royal palace made clear that the change in the king's agenda was due to the death of the 78-year-old Saudi prince. Prince Felipe, who will stand in for his father at the Supreme Court's bicentennial opening ceremony on Monday, was unable to go on the Jeddah trip due to an engagement he already had scheduled later in the day in Casablanca, where he will attend a business forum. He will then travel to the United States, palace officials explained.

Nevertheless, in 2011, when previous Saudi heir Sultan bin Abdul Aziz died, it was Felipe who flew to Riyadh to represent his father. The Spanish and Saudi royal families have close ties, which has led to a number of business opportunities, including the construction of an AVE high-speed rail link to Mecca that is currently underway.

The change in King Juan Carlos' schedule came 24 hours after the death of Nayef bin Abdul Aziz and Saturday's special meeting of the General Council of the Judiciary legal watchdog, after which it was leaked that Dívar is likely to resign.

Instead the panel allowed him to stay on at his request so that he could preside over the three-day bicentennial ceremonies.

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