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Date: July 6, 2022 3:38 am

The interior of one of the columbariums in the crypts of the Valley of the Fallen.CSIC

Madrid’s Supreme Court has lifted precautions that have so far prevented the exhumation plan from the crypts of the Valley of the Fallen from being carried out to try to return to 104 families the remains they have claimed for years. The Court granted the appeal filed by the National Heritage against the ruling of the Court of Administrative Disputes No. 10 of Madrid dated November 16, which established the stoppage of work as a precautionary measure and granted the necessary planning license to restore access to the crypt.

The State Attorney argued that the planned interventions had not compromised either the cult or any artistic element of the basilica and that the suspension order had hurt “all those people who demanded the exhumation and retrieval of the remains of their buried relatives in the Valley of the Fallen” and that they had previously secured recognition of this right. “The paralysis of works,” he added, “even if it is a precautionary measure, means a violation of the general interest by delaying an action that is intended only to ensure the dignity of the deceased buried in columbariums.”

For its part, the preventive applicant referred to the “fundamental right to the privacy of the deceased and their families and to the need to respect the sacred eternal rest” and stated that “numerous families” had moved to the Valle Defense Association. de los Caidos for his opposition to the transfer or analysis of the remains of his relatives.

The Supreme Court of Madrid ruled in favor of the National Heritage, as it understands that the interference is temporary, it does not affect the use of the rest of the complex, and the technical report provides for leaving everything as it was after the completion of the work. has been completed. In addition, remember that the Valle de los Caidos Foundation is dependent on the National Heritage and that the rights of family members who oppose interference are in any case outside the scope of the city planning license, which was suspended by the Administrative Court of Disputes 10 of Madrid.

Government sources say they intend to resume work “as soon as possible”, although it will take a month to prepare for work. Last March marked six years since the final decision authorizing the exhumation of the Lapeña brothers, two Republicans buried without family consent in the Valley of the Fallen. The presidential ministry, on which the secretary of state for democratic memory depends, and the National Heritage have been ready to intervene in the mausoleum since September last year, but a cascade of appeals submitted by individuals, as well as pro-Frankist and anti-memorialist associations, has paralyzed the intervention attempt. Over the years, Manuel Lapeña, the son and nephew of the two victims to be exhumed, has died at the age of 97, angering his descendants and other families demanding the return of the remains.

These pro-Franco or anti-memorialist groups used the same strategy used by the descendants of Francisco Franco in their attempt to stop the removal of the dictator’s remains from the monument to El Pardo Cemetery. Francisco Javier Zaragoza’s lawyer managed to temporarily stay the proceedings when Judge José Yusti considered his appeal, suspending the necessary building license, but the Supreme Court approved the procedure and Franco’s exhumation was carried out with the approval of the three branches of the state: the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. The lawyer is the son of Pedro Zaragoza Orts, Falangist and member of the Francisco Franco National Foundation until his death in 2009. Judge Justi is the son and grandson of the Francoist admirals.

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Francisco Echebarria, one of the best forensic anthropologists in the world – Chile asked for his help in examining the remains of singer-songwriter Victor Jara, former President Salvador Allende and poet Pablo Neruda – developed an intervention into the crypts down to the millimeter. The biggest difficulty will be the wear and tear of containers with human remains. “There are no precedents at the global level,” he argues, “for a forensic examination of these characteristics.” In any case, Echebarria, who has exhumed Francoist graves in many cemeteries, says the team “knows from experience the ethical and deontological codes of forensic discipline” and will “treat any human remains with great respect.”


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