In a crime fueled by the corrosive nature of national politics, gynecologist Eduardo Vela stole a newborn baby from her parents and gave her to an infertile married couple.
Thousands more babies are suspected to have been stolen, for the same reasons, during the Spanish reign of Francisco Franco. Vela is the first person to have been prosecuted for the crimes of abduction, fraud over pregnancy and document forgery. An abductee, Ines Madrigal, filed the suit after learning she had been stolen in 1969 and gifted to her new parents. The court found that there was conclusive evidence that he had committed the acts. The Spanish statute of limitations for the crimes had passed, however, and he could not be convicted.
Madrigal described the verdict as “bittersweet,” and said she planned to appeal it at the Supreme Court.
“This is a milestone at a European level, perhaps even internationally — it is the first sentence concerning stolen babies. It recognizes that there was a robbery, that I was stolen from my mother. But there’s something we don’t agree with, and that is that he has been acquitted.”
She said she hopes her case will help open “thousands of cases that are closed.”
In 2008, lawyer Baltasar Garzon determined that roughly 30,000 children had been stolen at birth by the Franco regime, with left-leaning parents being told their infants had died during childbirth and infertile nationalist parents being given new babies. His investigations violated the 1977 amnesty law for people working for the Franco regime, and he was subsequently disbarred.
Eduardo Vela, a doctor associated with the Nationalists, was granted access to the lists of potential adoptive parents which had been compiled by the Catholic church. Garzon’s investigations indicated that this was a common occurrence, and allowed the doctors to shift children from their political rivals to families with similar beliefs.
It is believed that the efforts continued into the 1990s using the existing network constructed under Franco.