AN 85-YEAR-OLD doctor is to become the first person to stand trial in Spain’s decades-old ‘stolen babies’ scandal.
Gynaecologist Dr Eduardo Vela will appear in a Madrid court over his alleged involvement in a criminal network which is believed to have seen hundreds of thousands of babies taken from their mothers and sold under the regime of dictator Francisco Franco.
The practice began after the Spanish civil war ended in 1939 and continued until after the leader’s death in 1975.
Children were stolen from families considered to be Republican – those who supported the government overthrown by Franco’s Nationalists after a military rebellion – and handed to others supporting the fascists.
Single or working class mothers, or women with “degenerate” political views were the typical victims.
The trafficking remained largely out of the public eye until two men, Antonio Barroso and Juan Luis Moreno, revealed in 2011 how a priest from Zaragoza sold them to their respective fathers.
They formed an association to help victims, who they believes number up to 300,000.
Vela worked at the Spanish capital’s San Ramon clinic and is accused of separating Ines Madrigal, 49, from her birth mother in 1969.
She was given to a 46-year-old woman alongside a forged birth certificate, and the doctor faces an 11-year jail term for illegal detention, falsifying official documents and certifying a non-existent birth.
Madrigal’s adopted parent told her the truth when she turned 18, and the railway employee has since become president of the SOS Stolen Babies Association in Murcia.
She said she does not expect the trial to serve up the answers she has spent three decades searching for, but hopes it will trigger the reopening of thousands of closed cases.
“Obviously I don’t think that Eduardo Vela is going to tell me the truth,” she said. “He’s not going to tell me who my mother is or about the circumstances in which I was taken from her.
“I’m not so naive as to believe that’s going to happen but I’d love it if we could get the records of all the women who gave birth at the San Ramon clinic.
She added: “This is a really important issue because, for 60 years, we were the baby supermarket for Europe and for South America, not just Spain.”
In 2013 Maria Gomez Valbuena, an 87-year-old nun who worked with Vela at the clinic, died just before she was due to stand trial.