By James Bryce
A HARD-hitting BBC documentary will reveal that up to 300,000 babies were stolen from their mothers under the regime of General Franco.
The alarming numbers – nearly three times previously thought – were taken and given to families sympathetic to the regime.
Exposing the full extent of the so-called ‘Stolen Babies’ scandal, the BBC documentary, which airs tonight (Tuesday), will show how the Catholic Church perpetrated the crime, using a network of doctors, nurses and nuns.
Even more incredibly, the programme claims that the racket continued until the early 1990s, some 15 years after the dictator’s death.
This World: Spain’s Stolen Babies – shown on BBC2 this week – reveals how mothers were usually told that their offspring had died during childbirth.
They were prevented from seeing the corpse and were not allowed to attend the burial.
The infants had in fact been given away to adoptive parents, with official documents being forged to show their names on the child’s birth certificate.
Experts believe the cases may account for up to 15 per cent of the total adoptions that took place in Spain between 1960 and 1990.
Thousands of families are now demanding government action, with 900 cases already under review.
It comes after the Olive Press reported in July that a group of nuns are to go on trial following the exhumation of three graves from the cemetery in La Linea.
They are expected to face charges of forgery, kidnapping and illegal detention.
In another case brought by Isabel Aguera Vazquez, from Estepona, investigators found clear discrepancies between the cause of death listed by the hospital and the civil register.
A group of 70 families in Cadiz are also seeking answers about babies that supposedly died shortly after birth.
The documentary shows photographs taken in the Eighties of a dead baby kept in a freezer, allegedly to show grieving mothers.
In some cases, babies’ graves have been exhumed, revealing bones that belong to adults or animals while some of the graves contained nothing at all.
This would appear to support comments made by a cemetery worker in Granada who told the BBC he had handled child coffins that were ‘suspiciously light’.
Anadir, an 800-member strong support group, has created a DNA database to help reunite children with their birth parents.
Journalist Katya Adler, who investigated the scandal. said: “The situation is incredibly sad for thousands of people.
“There are men and women across Spain who lives have been turned upside-down by discovering the people they thought were their parents actually bought them for cash.”
However, despite the extent of the scandal, no nationally co-ordinated investigation has taken place.
“There is very little political will to get to the bottom of the situation,” Adler added.
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