By Emma Pinedo and Paola Luelmo
MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s Supreme Court is expected to rule on Tuesday on whether to move the remains of former dictator General Francisco Franco from a state mausoleum that the leftist government and others have criticised as a monument to fascism.
The court will also say where to rebury the dictator, who died 44 years ago.
Although decades have passed since the end of Franco’s rule, he remains a contentious political touchstone in Spain, which is heading to its fourth election in four years after a prolonged government crisis.
Franco’s remains are buried in the Valley of the Fallen just outside Madrid, a complex that the Socialist caretaker government has long sought to turn into a memorial to victims of the 1936-39 civil war, unleashed by Franco, in which about 500,000 people were killed.
“We expect justice and we will accept what the Supreme Court rules, as always,” acting deputy prime minister Carmen Calvo said on Monday.
The decision, however, is unlikely to end a divisive debate about Franco’s final resting place.
When the government first ruled to exhume Franco in March, the plan was for the remains to be reburied next to his wife in the family tomb at Mingorrubio El Pardo, a state cemetery where various political figures are buried.
Franco’s family has accused the government of trying to change history and said that if the remains must be removed, they should be reinterred with more pomp at the Almudena Roman Catholic Cathedral adjacent to the Royal Palace in central Madrid, alongside his daughter.
The remains should be given to the family, but not moved to Almudena, said Bonifacio Sanchez of the ARMH group that represents victims of Franco’s dictatorship.
If they were, it risked the cathedral becoming “a place of cult, glorification of Franco and pilgrimage,” he said, adding also that the group objected to any public spending on Franco’s grave.
A government report said last December that the Almudena cathedral, located right in the centre of Madrid not far from the royal palace, was unsuitable as a burial place for security reasons.
Juan Chicarro Ortega, president of the Francisco Franco Foundation dedicated to preserving the dictator’s memory, said he would prefer the remains not to move, but would count it still as a win over the government if the court were to rule that they should be reburied in the cathedral.
(Writing by Andrei Khalip; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Rosalba O’Brien)