A Spanish court has authorized the bodies of one Manuel Lapena Altabas and Antonio Lapena Altabas to be exhumed from the Valley of the Fallen, a tomb where victims of Spain’s civil war were buried with dictator Francisco Franco.
According to a report by AFP, the court in El Escorial near Madrid, ruled in favour of a request made in September, 2015, from Maria Purificacion Lapena, who wanted the bodies of her grandfather and great-uncle dug up so that they could be given a proper funeral.
Both deceased men, executed by Francisco Franco’s militia at the outset of Spain’s 1936-39 civil war and initially buried in a mass grave in the northeastern region of Aragon, were members of an anarchist group.
In 1959, their remains were later transferred to the Valley of the Fallen – where Francisco Franco was buried in 1975 – without the consent of their family.
Maria Lapena’s husband, Miguel Angel Capape, a member of Arico, a campaign group which works to identify bodies from mass graves said it was the first time that a court has authorized the exhumation of bodies from the Valley of the Fallen.
He added that the ruling “has been years of work, of going from one court to another…finally a door has opened and we can see the end of the road.”
Prior to this time, a law was passed in 2007 by Spain’s previous Socialist government which allowed relatives to exhume and recover the remains of loved ones in mass graves and called for public funds to be provided to help cover the costs.
But funding for such projects dried up after the conservative Popular Party came to power in 2011. The party argued that allowing exhumations re-opens old wounds.
However, the Association for the Defence of the Valley of the Fallen said it would “take all necessary legal action” to prevent exhumations from taking place at the site, arguing it would “violate” the rights of the families who do not want the remains of their loved ones at mausoleum to be touched.
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