Spanish court allows exhumations at Franco’s mausoleum

A Spanish court has for the first time authorized the exhumation of bodies from the Valley of the Fallen, a vast mausoleum where dictator Francisco Franco is buried along with thousands of victims of Spain's civil war, AFP reports citing a ruling published Monday, May 9.

The court in El Escorial near Madrid, where the mausoleum is located, was ruling on a request from Maria Purificacion Lapena, granddaughter of a man executed by Franco's forces.

In September 2015, Lapena asked the court to order the exhumation of the body of her grandfather, Manuel Lapena Altabas, and great-uncle Antonio Lapena Altabas so that they could be given a proper funeral.

The two men, both members of an anarchist group, were killed at the outset of Spain's 1936-39 civil war and buried in a mass grave in the northeastern region of Aragon.

In 1959, their remains were transferred without the consent of their family to the Valley of the Fallen, which became Franco's final resting spot when he died in 1975.

In a ruling dated March 30 which was only published on Monday, the court ordered the "return of the remains of the Lapena Altabas to their relative Maria Purificacion Lapena after they are identified so that they can be given a proper burial."

This is the first time that a court has authorized the exhumation of bodies from the Valley of the Fallen, Lapena's husband Miguel Angel Capape, a member of campaign group Arico which works to identify bodies from mass graves, told AFP.

"This 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," he added.

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.