Elderly doctor acquitted in ‘stolen babies’ case in Spain

Ines Madrigal leaves court after the verdict

A Spanish doctor who stole and sold a baby during the country's dictatorship has avoided punishment because the statute of limitations has expired. The gynecologist at the San Ramón clinic in Madrid had been accused of taking Inés Madrigal from her biological mother in the spring of 1969 and giving her to a 46-year-old woman who was falsely certified as her birth mother.

This is because the court ruled the offences passed the statute of limitations, the law which sets the maximum time a claimant has to initiate legal proceedings from the date of an alleged offence.

In recent years, more stories have emerged of babies being removed from families viewed as Republicans, and given to others loyal to Franco's fascist regime.

The sinister political practice that began after the Spanish Civil War is believed to have continued as recently as the 1990s.

Madrigal, now 49, said she said the verdict was "bittersweet" and she would be appealing to the country's Supreme Court.

"I have a sweet and sour feeling".

Ines Madrigal speaks to journalists outside a court in Madrid, Spain, Monday Oct. 8, 2018.

Previous cases have been shut down due to lack of evidence or the statute of limitations. But the court made a decision to "absolve" the 85-year-old even if they considered him the "perpetrator of all the offences" of which he was accused.

Indeed, numerous allegations related to the stolen babies have failed to reach the courts because some of the alleged crimes have took place too long ago.

A man thought to be Eduardo Vela is pushed in a wheelchair into court in Madrid
Image A man thought to be Eduardo Vela is pushed in a wheelchair into court in Madrid

The most serious abduction charge was brought against Vela by Ms Madrigal in April 2012.

The case of Eduardo Vela, 85, focused on Ines Madrigal who was abducted and illegally adopted in 1969.

He said Vela had burned the clinic's archives.

When she arrived, he placed a newborn baby in her arms and handed her a falsified birth certificate, Perez claimed.

"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 fearless".

Numerous "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.

It's "a way of saying - we recognise this but we're not going to stick our neck out for this", she said, adding that the guilty verdict was nevertheless a "milestone at a European level".

Vela is not the only person who has been named in connection with Spain's stolen babies. She appeared in court as a suspect but died just days before her trial officially opened.

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