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Spain mulls ban on expressions of support for dictator Franco

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By Euronews  with AP
An image of Gen. Francisco Franco is pictured during a gathering outside the Mingorrubio cemetery where the Spanish dictator is now laid to rest.
An image of Gen. Francisco Franco is pictured during a gathering outside the Mingorrubio cemetery where the Spanish dictator is now laid to rest.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Manu Fernandez, File

Spain's government has approved draft legislation to outlaw expressions of support for the former dictator Francisco Franco.

The proposed "Law on Democratic Memory" would also ban organisations that praise the policies and leaders of Spain's 20th-century dictatorship.

The Socialist-led coalition has long-sought to outlaw anyone who supports Franco's rule and demean "the dignity of the victims of the 1936 coup, or of the Civil War".

The draft bill is another milestone in the government's aim to heal divisions over Franco's place in Spanish history but is likely to re-ignite the debate over freedom of expression.

Spain has wanted to provide redress for Franco's victims and stamp out right-wing extremism, amid the recent popularity of the far-right Vox party.

Félix Bolaños, the minister overseeing the bill, said it was Spain's "first law that expressly condemns and repudiates the coup ... and the ensuing dictatorship".

The 20-century dictatorship was "the darkest period of our contemporary history," Bolaños added.

Two years ago, Spain's government ordered the exhumation of Franco's remains from his mausoleum outside Madrid and arranged a reburial in a small family crypt north of the capital.

More than 500,000 people died in the war between rebel nationalist forces led by Franco and defenders of a short-lived Spanish republic.

Franco declared victory on April 1, 1939, and ruled ruthlessly until his death in 1975. More than 110,000 victims from the war and his dictatorship remain unidentified.

The draft bill now opens the door to the abolition of the high-profile Francisco Franco Foundation, which promotes the former dictator's legacy.

Under the legislation, expressing support for Franco-era figures and ideas will carry a maximum fine of €150,000.

The bill also establishes a national DNA bank to help trace people who are missing and presumed dead, often in unmarked or common graves. Currently, civic movements and families have often taken on the responsibility of finding and exhuming the victims.

The proposed law further aims to uncover the truth about persecution and atrocities from the Civil War's outbreak through to the 1978 approval of a new Constitution, by appointing a special prosecutor.

Convictions on political, religious, or sexual grounds that were handed down under Franco will also be overturned. Aristocrats will also be stripped of any titles granted by the dictator.

The "Law on Democratic Memory" will now go to Spain's parliament for a vote.