Spanish doctor stands trial over Franco-era 'stolen babies'

Jun 27, 2018, 07:46 IST | Agencies

Demonstrators protested outside the court as Eduardo Vela, who worked as a gynaecologist at the now-defunct San Ramón clinic in Madrid, arrived in court

Spanish doctor stands trial over Franco-era 'stolen babies'
Eduardo Vela is accused of taking Ines Madrigal (centre) from her biological mother in 1969, and giving her to another woman. Pic/AFP

The first trial in Spain over thousands of suspected cases of babies stolen from their mothers during the Franco era has opened in Madrid as an 85-year-old former doctor appeared in the dock.

Demonstrators protested outside the court as Eduardo Vela, who worked as a gynaecologist at the now-defunct San Ramón clinic in Madrid, arrived in court. Some carried signs saying "Justice!" and "Human rights for stolen babies".

Eduardo Vela
Eduardo Vela

Vela is accused of taking Inés Madrigal, now 49, from her biological mother in 1969, and giving her to another woman he falsely certified as her birth mother. Prosecutors are seeking an 11-year jail term for falsifying documents, illegal adoption, unlawful detention and certifying a non-existent birth. In a dark and often overlooked chapter of General Francisco Franco's 1939-75 dictatorship, the newborns of some leftwing opponents of the regime, or unmarried or poor couples, were removed from their mothers and adopted. The practice was later expanded.

New mothers were frequently told their babies had died suddenly after birth and the hospital had taken care of their burials, when in fact they were given or sold to another family.

Madrigal, a railway worker who heads the Murcia branch of the SOS Stolen Babies association, said she did not expect Vela would provide answers about her origins or apologise. But she hoped his two-day trial would lead to the reopening of other "stolen babies" cases.

"A mother can never forget her son," she told reporters outside the court. "Mothers want to tell their children that they did not abandon them… but above all they want to know that they are well."

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