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King of Spain's brother-in-law avoids jail while appealing tax-fraud conviction

MADRID (Reuters) - A Spanish court decided on Thursday not to hold the King of Spain's brother-in-law in custody while he awaits an appeal against a six-year jail sentence for charges including tax fraud and money laundering.

Inaki Urdangarin was found guilty on Friday of using royal connections to overcharge regional governments through public contracts to stage sports and tourist events. He was also charged with tax fraud.

The trial and the six-year investigation leading up to it, captivated the attention of a nation sickened by a string of graft scandals at the highest levels of Spanish society while ordinary people suffer spending cuts and high unemployment.

Crowds shouted 'thief!' as he entered and left the court on Thursday.

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Under Spanish law, Urdangarin can appeal the sentence of the provincial Mallorcan court through the Supreme Court.

The Mallorcan court is the highest judicial authority in the region where the crimes took place, but the sentence is not definitive until the Supreme Court in Madrid has backed it up.

While the Supreme Court deliberates on the sentence, a process that could take months, or even years, Urdangarin must register once a month in his town of residence, currently Geneva, Switzerland, the court ruled on Thursday.

He must inform the court of any change in residence or travel plans outside the European Union during that time.

Urdangarin lives with Princess Cristina and their four children in Switzerland. He took an Easyjet flight to Palma de Mallorca to appear at the court on Thursday, Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported.

Neither Urdangarin nor Princess Cristina were called to court for sentencing last Friday. Princess Cristina was acquitted of being an accessory to tax fraud. It was the first time a member of the Spanish royal family had to stand in the dock in a criminal trial.

The case is one of many unrelated high-profile corruption investigations currently going through the Spanish courts involving the rich and powerful, including bankers and politicians.

(Reporting by Maria Vega; Writing by Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Paul Day and Richard Lough)