Spanish Court Convicts Doctor in Stolen Babies Case

Spanish Court Convicts Doctor in Stolen Babies Case

Wednesday, 10 October, 2018 - 05:30
Francisco Franco in the 1960s. AFP/Getty
Madrid – London - Asharq Al-Awsat
In a first-of-its-kind trial in cases on stolen babies during the rule of Dictator Franco between 1939 and 1975, a Spanish Court announced on Monday that a 85-year-old gynecologist was proved guilty in kidnapping a baby.

The "stolen babies" phenomenon emerged after the oppression that followed the Spanish civil war (1939-1936). At the time, babies had been kidnapped from their parents who belonged to the opposition and were accused of transmitting the Marxism "gene" to their children. Those babies had been stolen from their mothers to be given to families backing the regime, or because their mothers were poor or single.

The court proved the doctor guilty based on a complaint filed by Ines Madrigal, 49, one of his victims. However, the court didn't sentence him as too much time had elapsed since the kidnap in 1969.

Eduardo Vela was a gynecologist at the San Ramón clinic in Madrid. Ines Madrigal accused him of taking her from her mother and forging her birth certificate in June 1969 in collusion with a cleric, and then giving her to a 46-year-old woman called Inés Pérez who registered the girl as her daughter, AFP reported.

Vela is the first person to face trial for crimes related to the stolen babies, which affected thousands of children during the military rule in Spain between 1939 and 1975.

Before the judges, Madrigal said: "I feel confused, I am happy because it’s been proven that Dr. Vela stole me, but I didn’t think the statute of limitations would be applied."

The trial kicked off on June 26, however, it was postponed the next day after admitting Vela, who moves on a wheelchair, urgently to the hospital.

During the investigation, the gynecologist admitted that "he signed without reading" the medical record indicating that he attended the delivery; however, he denied his testimony before the court and said the signature was not for him.

According to BBC, the "stolen baby" phenomenon emerged after the oppression that followed the Spanish civil war (1936 – 1939); babies had been taken from their parents who oppose the government and who were accused of transmitting the Marxism "gene" to their children.

Babies had been taken from their mothers' laps and the parents had been told that their children were born dead. Then, the kidnapped babies were given to infertile couples, and mostly to those who align with Franco's regime.

Since the 1950s, this phenomenon affected children born to unmarried parents or poor or big families. These practices lasted even under the democratic state till 1987 for lucrative purposes.

Despite the importance of the case, all the filed claims which exceeded 2,000 were useless, and mostly because too much time had elapsed.

The retired Spanish Judge, Baltasar Garzón, estimated that 30,000 children had been stolen from families between 1939 and till 1975. Such incidents also took place in Argentina, during the military rule between 1976 and 1983.

Activists say that hundreds of similar cases didn't reach the court due to the lack of evidence or to the expiry of legal term.

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