By Sonya Dowsett
MADRID (Reuters) – An elderly gynaecologist went on trial on Tuesday accused of abducting a baby in 1969 and giving her to another woman, the first person to be prosecuted over the “stolen babies” scandal that affected thousands in Spain.
Activists wearing yellow t-shirts marked with the slogan “Justice” protested outside the court demanding the re-opening of other cases dating back to the 1939 to 1975 rule of dictator Francisco Franco.
Campaigners say officials took babies from “unsuitable” mothers – often communists or leftists – and gave them to families connected to the regime.
Doctor Eduardo Vela is accused of falsifying documents, abduction of a child under seven years of age and staging a birth while he worked at the San Ramon hospital in Madrid. He denies any wrong-doing.
Bringing the charge is Ines Madrigal, a 49-year-old woman who accuses Vela of forging her 1969 birth certificate to show her adopted mother as her biological parent.
Former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon recorded cases of about 30,000 Spanish children who were taken at birth during Franco’s rule.
They echo similar cases that took place during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship in Argentina – where courts have since handed out lengthy jail terms for the systematic theft of babies from political prisoners.
Activists say hundreds of similar cases have never come to court in Spain because of a lack of evidence or because the time limit to file a charge has passed.
(This version of the story corrects dates of Franco’s rule in paragraph 2)
(Writing by Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Paul Day and Andrew Heavens)