Sunday, 26 May, 2019

Court: Doctor in Spain abducted newborn 49 years ago

Ines Madrigal speaks to reporters after today's verdict Ines Madrigal speaks to reporters after today's verdict
Deanna Wagner | 10 October, 2018, 16:20

She was in court for the verdict but Vela was absent.

The phenomenon, therefore, would have affected many more families in Argentina, where some 500 newborns were taken from inmates during the military dictatorship (1976-1983) and entrusted in adoption to families who are supporting the regime.

Monday's verdict is Spain's first in relation to the abduction of thousands of children during the country's Civil War and the decades of Gen. Francisco Franco's dictatorship that followed.

The guiding principle was that the child would be better off raised by an affluent, conservative and devout Roman Catholic family.

Vela, who was the director of a Madrid clinic considered to be at the epicentre of the scandal, denied the accusations.

The court considers Ines' 18th birthday in 1987 as the date to start counting the 10 years in which the crime of illegal detention could be prosecuted.

The most serious abduction charge was brought against Vela by Ms Madrigal in April 2012. But the doctor was acquitted because the court ruled that the statute of limitations had expired.

Madrigal's was the only case of "stolen babies" - as they are known in Spain - that has made it to the trial stage.

The case relates to the recent unearthing of the common practice during Franco's dictatorship, where a network of nuns and medical professionals stole babies from poor families and gave them to wealthy parents unable to conceive.

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"I'm happy because the judges are acknowledging that there was theft, that I was taken away from my mother, but I didn't think they would stop short of convicting him", she told reporters, adding that "the judges should had been courageous".

Numerous 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.

During the trial, Vela 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 centre for baby trafficking.

Eduardo Vela was a gynecologist at the San Ramón clinic in Madrid.

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 videoconference. 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 criticised the hidden camera recording and said his client had "nothing to do" with what had been alleged.