A Spanish doctor who stole and sold a baby during the country’s dictatorship has avoided punishment because the statute of limitations has expired.
A court in Madrid ruled 85-year-old gynaecologist Eduardo Vela was responsible for the abduction of a child, faking a birth and falsifying official documents.
But the court said Vela could not be punished because Ines Madrigal – who was taken away from her mother as a baby in 1969 – did not make her complaint until 2012, more than a decade after the gravest crime had taken place.
The verdict is Spain’s first in relation to the abduction of thousands of children during the country’s civil war and the decades of General Francisco Franco’s dictatorship that followed.
Ms Madrigal, who was told by her mother at 18 that she was adopted, accused Vela of forging her 1969 birth certificate to show her adoptive mother – who has since died – as her biological parent.
Vela, who was the director of a Madrid clinic considered at the epicentre of the scandal, denied the accusations during this year’s trial.
Ms Madrigal, now 49, argued that she could not have lodged her complaint earlier because she only learned about the scheme in 2010, when her adoptive mother, who died three years later, disclosed the details of what had happened at Vela’s clinic.
DNA tests confirmed the account, but Ms Madrigal’s biological parents were never found.
Ms Madrigal told reporters outside the court that she would appeal against the decision.
Many of the “stolen babies” cases date back to the right-wing dictatorship of 1939-75 when campaigners say officials took babies from “unsuitable” mothers – often communist or leftists – and gave them to families with connections to the regime.
A decade ago, a Spanish judge recorded the cases of about 30,000 Spanish children taken at birth during Franco’s rule.