Spanish court sets doctor free in decades-old 'stolen babies' scandal

A Spanish court has ruled that a doctor stole a newborn nearly five decades ago one of many abducted during Spain's 20th-century dictatorship. But the cleared him because the statute of limitations had expired

Ms Madrigal, now 49, said: "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".

Eduardo Vela will not be convicted despite the facts judges declared the case had "proved beyond a doubt" that Vela was guilty.

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

However, Vela, the director of a Madrid clinic considered to be at the epicenter of the scandal, was cleared of any charges because Madrigal did not make her complain until 2012 - more than 10 years after she had become of legal age and well past the statute of limitations on the charge of abduction.

During the investigation, the gynecologist admitted that "he signed without reading" the medical record indicating that he attended the delivery; however, he denied his testimony before the court and said the signature was not for him.

These included falsifying documents, illegal adoption, unlawful detention and certifying a non-existent birth.

But this was overruled by the court.

When the case first reached the court, it ruled that a decision would be taken as to whether the timeline fell outside the statute of limitations as part of the verdict.

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She told AFP many victims found out they had been robbed from their biological mothers decades after they turned 18. Most lawsuits have been rejected in the past by courts for coming after the statute of limitations expired.

The 85-year-old former doctor was the first person to face trial over the so-called "stolen babies" scandal that took place during and after Spain's fascist dictatorship of General Franco.

The baby-stealing practice began after Franco came to power following the 1936-39 civil war.

Even after Spain democratized following Franco's death in 1975, the practice continued as an illegal trafficking network until at least 1987.

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.

One of the witnesses of the trial, a French journalist, Emilie Helmbacher, which was completed in 2013 a report for the channel France 2 on the subject, had said that Dr. Vela, filmed in a hidden camera, he had hinted that he had entrusted the new-born Inès Perez and stated that it "had not paid".

An amnesty law, aimed at smoothing the transition to democracy, contributed to the cover-up, as courts and politicians refused to investigate baby-trafficking.

Vela's lawyer Rafael Casas criticised the hidden camera recording and said his client had "nothing to do" with what had been alleged.

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