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Exhumation of Spain’s civil war victims begins

Madrid: Experts on Monday began the exhumation of four people who were killed in the Spanish Civil War and buried alongside thousands of other war dead in mass graves incorporated into a mausoleum that was built by former dictator Francisco Franco.

After years of legal challenges and disputes, the Spanish judiciary recently allowed the bodies of Manuel and Antonio Ramiro Lapena, Pedro Gil Calonge and Juan Gonzalez Moreno to be exhumed, after their families requested they be given access to the remains, reports Efe news. The Lapena brothers, a veterinarian and a blacksmith, were believed to have been executed without a trial by pro-Franco forces early in the 1936-39 civil war and dumped in a mass grave.

The bodies were transferred in 1964 without the family’s consent to the vast memorial 45 km north of Madrid where Franco, whom the brothers had opposed, was later given a state funeral at the mausoleum which was named the Valley of the Fallen.

Moreno and Calonge were killed in action as they fought alongside fascist forces in the war and their bodies were also later transferred to the Valley.

Their families had spent six years battling the legal system to be able to rebury them away from the mass grave and closer to their homes. Forensic and archaeological experts will now work to find and identify their bodies and ensure they can be safely removed.

Franco’s mausoleum is controversial as it is considered one of the most potent symbols of his dictatorship.

The complex, ostensibly dedicated to all victims of the civil war, was built by thousands of prisoners, many of whom died drilling into the solid granite mountain where the mausoleum is located.

Spain’s Civil War began in 1936 when right-wing nationalist troops led by Franco rebelled against the democratically-elected government of the Second Republic.

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