General Francisco Franco ruled Spain from 1939-75. Spain’s attorney general’s office has rejected a demand that it open a national probe into allegations that newborn babies were stolen from their mothers and sold to other families for decades under a policy approved by Franco’s dictatorship.
AFP – Spain’s attorney general’s office on Tuesday rejected a demand that it open a national probe into allegations that newborn babies were stolen from their mothers and sold to other families for decades under a policy approved by Franco’s dictatorship.
Anadir, an association fighting for the stolen children and their families, presented the demand on Thursday on behalf of the victims and families of 261 snatched babies along with evidence including testimony from nurses who admitted taking part.
It estimated there could have been as many as 300,000 cases during General Francisco Franco’s 1939-75 dictatorship and up to the end of the late 1980s.
“The attorney general’s office refused to open an inquiry at the national level and asks that each family present a criminal complaint at their local court where the alleged crime took place,” said a spokesman for the attorney general’s office.
The attorney general’s office justified the move on the grounds that those responsible for the baby thefts were not part of a single network but operated independently from different parts of the country separately.
Under a 1940 decree the state was allowed to take children into custody if their “moral education” was at risk.
The decree allowed the dictatorship to take children of jailed left-wing opponents from their mothers with state approval and often the blessing of the Roman Catholic Church to purge Spain of feared Marxist influence.
Historians say many of the “lost children” were put in Catholic religious orders and became nuns or priests while others were illegally adopted by other families with changed identities.
Many of the same doctors, nurses and officials who carried out the Franco-era policy are accused of continuing it after the dictator’s death and Spain’s return to democracy as an illegal business that provided babies for cash to women unable to give birth.
Many new mothers were told their babies had died suddenly within hours of birth and the hospital had taken care of their burials when in fact they were given to another family, according to Anadir.