Tuesday 16 October 2018

Spanish doctor (85) goes on trial in controversial 'stolen babies' case

Ines Madrigal arrives at court in Madrid for the hearing. Photo: Reuters
Ines Madrigal arrives at court in Madrid for the hearing. Photo: Reuters

Sonya Dowsett

An 85-year-old Spanish gynaecologist went on trial yesterday accused of abducting a baby in 1969 and giving her away, the first person prosecuted for the "stolen babies" scandal that affected thousands during the rule of General Francisco Franco.

Activists wearing yellow T-shirts and chanting "We want justice!" protested outside the Madrid court demanding the reopening of other cases, many of which date back to the right-wing dictatorship of 1939 to 1975.

Campaigners say officials took babies from "unsuitable" mothers - often communists or leftists - and gave them to families connected to the regime.

They claim it continued after General Franco's death into the 1980s.

Eduardo Vela is accused of falsifying documents, abducting a child under seven years and faking a birth while he worked at the San Ramon hospital in Madrid, now closed. He denies any wrongdoing.

Bringing the charge is Ines Madrigal, who accuses Vela of forging her 1969 birth certificate to show her adoptive mother, now dead, as her biological parent.

Ms Madrigal, who was told by her mother at 18 that she was adopted, became suspicious about her background after reading a newspaper article about stolen babies around eight years ago, she said.

"It made the hair on my arms stand up like spikes," she said.

Frail

Mr Vela, who is frail and struggled to hear the questions put to him in court, denied handing over the baby, and denied that the signature on Ms Madrigal's birth certificate was his.

"I never gave any baby to anyone," he said.

A decade ago, Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon recorded the cases of about 30,000 Spanish children taken at birth during Franco's rule. Judge Garzon was barred from the bench in 2012 for illegal wiretapping and no longer practises as a judge in Spain.

The cases echo events that took place during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship in Argentina - where the courts have since handed out lengthy jail terms for the systematic theft of babies from political prisoners.

Activists say hundreds of similar cases have failed to make it to court in Spain because of a lack of evidence or because the time limit to file a charge has passed.

Irish Independent

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