The very first case of stolen babies during the Franco-era military dictatorship in Spain began Tuesday as Eduardo Vila, an 85-year-old doctor, appeared in a Madrid court for the crimes.
The gynecologist, charged with illegal adoption, falsifying official documents, unlawful detention and certifying a non-existent birth, is accused of having abducted Ines Madrigal, currently 49 years old, from her biological mother at birth.
He is accused of collaborating with a deceased Catholic nun called Sister Maria in stealing dozens of newborns at San Ramon Clinic in Madrid.
Madrigal said she hopes the trial will allow for “many cold cases to proceed” and “expose the drama of so many mothers, fathers and their children.”
She also stressed that time is running out to prosecute the perpetrators of these heinous crimes. “Parents are dying and it's becoming harder to find the perpetrators.”
As many as 300,000 babies are estimated to have been forcibly abducted from their mothers during General Francisco Franco's rule over Spain from 1939 to 1975, and continued until 1987 when legislation regulating adoptions was made law.
The stealing of babies from the families of Franco-opponents emerged in the 1930s. It often involved telling mothers of newborns that their babies had died during or shortly after birth and the hospital had attended to their burials. A wide network of doctors, nurses, nuns and priests proceeded to sell the babies for adoption.
Abducting babies was implemented as a form of ideological and psychological warfare during the Spanish Civil War and intended to quash all opposition. The practice, however, had extended to poor families by the 1950s.