Spanish Franco-era 'stolen babies' campaigner finds her family

Ines Madrigal became the first woman to be recognized as one of the Franco-dictatorship "stolen babies" last year and went on to find her biological family through a DNA database in the United States.

The 50-year-old railway worker found in March that she was too late to meet her mother, who had died, but that she was part of a family of five: "I have four siblings, who are marvelous people and have opened their arms to me," she told a press conference in Madrid on Thursday. "At last I have completed the puzzle of my life. Now I know who I am and where I come from."

However, her family also told her that her mother had given up for adoption voluntarily.

Legal appeal continues

This is likely to affect her legal appeal in Spain against the doctor who had faked details of her birth and forged official documents when she was born in 1969.

Last year a court ruled that 85-year-old former gynecologist Eduardo Vela abducted Madrigal in Madrid in 1969, faking her birth by her adoptive parents. But the court cleared him, as it ruled the statute of limitations had expired.

Madrigal has continued her appeal which is scheduled to be heard by Spain's Supreme Court, saying that Vela broke the law: "He should have registered my birth and he did not do so," Madrigal said. "He treated me like a puppy. The State never knew I existed."

There are also suspicions that Vela was responsible for other baby thefts.

A case among hundreds

However, the state prosecutor's office in Madrid has already issued a statement to say that given the new information, it did not consider that Madrigal had been stolen.

Madrigal's case had been the first to go to trial as one of the hundreds of babies who were trafficked or stolen during the country's Civil War from 1936 throughout the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco until his death in 1975.

Previous lawsuits were rejected by Spanish courts ruling the statute of limitations had expired.

Read more: Spain fails LGBTI victims of Franco regime

Investigations into the cases of more than 30,000 children taken into care during the Franco regime only began a decade ago, led by magistrate Baltasar Garzon.

The children were taken away from poor families, prisoners or political opponents. The mothers were told lies — including that their children had died during labor. The babies were then given to pro-Franco families or to the Catholic church to educate them away from the influence of their natural parents.

It is impossible to tell how many "stolen babies" there were during the 36-year period but estimates range from the hundreds to the tens of thousands.

jm/msh (EFE, AFP, AP)

Every evening, DW sends out a selection of the day's news and features. Sign up here.