Spanish army captain suspended after soldiers kneel at Franco memorial

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
The Valley of the Fallen mausoleum, near El Escorial, is located on the outskirts of Madrid.
The Valley of the Fallen mausoleum, near El Escorial, is located on the outskirts of Madrid.   -  Copyright  AP Photo/Manu Fernandez

Spain’s armed forces have suspended an army captain after his soldiers were seen kneeling in front of a memorial to former dictator Francisco Franco.

Footage shared on social media showed around 30 soldiers from one unit apparently paying homage in front of the Valley of the Fallen mausoleum.

The clip was posted on Telegram by a pro-democracy army group known as "Ciudadanas de uniforme" (Citizens in Uniform). It showed the soldiers kneeling with rifles in their hands on the steps in front of the basilica as a priest blessed them.

The video's contents has been widely condemned and several political parties have demanded an explanation from Spain's Defense Minister Margarita Robles.

Under a 2007 law, Spain has also banned any gatherings outside the mausoleum.

On Thursday, the ministry confirmed that the unit's captain had been dismissed within hours of the video appearing on social media. An investigation has also been launched into the incident.

The grandiose mausoleum formerly served as Franco’s burial place and has always been revered by his extreme right-wing followers in Spain.

In 2019, the Socialist government exhumed Franco’s remains and removed them to a cemetery in northern Madrid.

The move came after outcry from Franco's victims and their descendants, who consider the mausoleum an affront to Spain’s standing as a modern democratic state.

Thousands of unidentified political prisoners who worked on the construction of the mausoleum near Madrid are also buried in the Valley of the Fallen.