Doctor found guilty but not convicted in Spain ‘stolen baby’ case

Demonstrators hold baby dolls and placards reading ‘Human rights for stolen babies’ outside a provincial court in Madrid on June 26, on the first day of the first trial over thousands of suspected cases of babies stolen from their mothers during the Franco era. (AFP)
Updated 08 October 2018
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Doctor found guilty but not convicted in Spain ‘stolen baby’ case

  • The Madrid court ruled that the deed was committed too long ago for the defendant to be legally convicted
  • The baby-stealing practice began after Francisco Franco came to power following the 1936-39 civil war
MADRID: A Spanish court found an 85-year-old former doctor guilty Monday of taking a newborn away from her mother under the Franco dictatorship but refrained from convicting him, in the first trial of the so-called “stolen babies” scandal.
The Madrid court ruled that the deed was committed too long ago for the defendant to be legally convicted.
It found former gynecologist Eduardo Vela guilty of taking Ines Madrigal, now 49, away from her mother as a newborn in 1969.
During and after the 1939-1975 dictatorship, thousands of babies were taken away from their mothers, who were told they had died after birth.
The babies were adopted by infertile couples, preferably close to the far-right regime, often with the help of the Catholic Church.
Vela, who used to run a clinic, was the first to stand trial for alleged involvement in the baby trafficking.
Prosecutors wanted him jailed for 11 years.
He was accused of taking Madrigal from her biological mother and giving her to another woman, who was falsely certified as her birth mother.
Madrigal hopes her case will help open “thousands of cases that are closed” — even if she will never know who her real mother was.
“In this country, a person who played God ... cannot remain unpunished,” she said in September at the end of the hearings.
The baby-stealing practice began after Franco came to power following the 1936-39 civil war.
Initially, newborns were taken from leftwing opponents of the regime.
Later, the practice was expanded to supposedly illegitimate babies and those from poor families.
Perpetrators wanted the children to be raised by affluent, conservative and devout Roman Catholic families.
Even after Spain transitioned to democracy following Franco’s death in 1975, the illegal trafficking went on up to at least 1987.
Campaigners estimate tens of thousands of babies may have been stolen from their parents over the decades.
Vila was accused of falsifying documents, illegal adoption, unlawful detention and certifying a non-existent birth.
During the trial, he said he could not remember details about the operation of the clinic, which he ran for 20 years up to 1982.
A policeman who probed the case and testified in court said the clinic was a center for baby trafficking.
He said Vela had burnt the clinic’s archives.
The policeman said Vela was part of a “plot” to take babies from single mothers in shelters often run by religious orders.
Emilie Helmbacher, a French journalist, also testified by video conference.
In an investigation in Madrid in December 2013, she used a hidden camera to record Vela as he appeared to confess to having given Madrigal away as a “gift” in June 1969.
Vela’s lawyer Rafael Casas criticized the hidden camera recording. He said his client had “nothing to do” with the alleged deeds.


At least 11 dead in Taliban attack on Afghan police HQ

Updated 56 min 55 sec ago
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At least 11 dead in Taliban attack on Afghan police HQ

  • The assault comes amid a series of peace talks between Washington and the Taliban that both sides say are making progress
  • 11 people had been killed, including nine civilians and two police officers

KANDAHAR: At least 11 people were killed and scores more wounded Thursday when the Taliban attacked a police headquarters in the southern city of Kandahar, officials and the insurgents said.
The assault comes amid a series of peace talks between Washington and the Taliban that both sides say are making progress, but which so far have yielded no reduction in violence in the gruelling Afghan conflict.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said the afternoon attack in Afghanistan’s second-largest city started with a car bomb, then saw gunmen storm the police compound.
“A number of mujahideen equipped with heavy and small arms breached the headquarters and launched their operations inside,” he said.
Baheer Ahmadi, the Kandahar governor’s spokesman, said in a statement that 11 people had been killed, including nine civilians and two police officers, while another 80 — including women and children — were wounded.
He earlier had given a toll of 12 dead.
Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said eight attackers were involved. Two blew themselves up, while the remaining six were “cornered in a building.”
Hayatullah Hayat, the provincial governor for Kandahar, said Afghan security forces had launched a “clean-up operation” to see if any attackers were remaining.
“The fighting is over now. Some vehicles were burnt. Now the Afghan army and US helicopters are hovering in the area,” police chief Tadin Khan told AFP.
Pictures on social media showed a huge plume of smoke rising over Kandahar, and Hayat said about six trucks carrying commercial goods had burnt.
The assault comes just one day after two Afghan soldiers — who were really Taliban operatives — fatally shot an Afghan colonel in Ghazni province.