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Franco's body can be exhumed, rules Spanish court

Posted September 24, 2019 6:22 a.m. EDT

— The remains of right-wing dictator General Francisco Franco can be exhumed, Spain's Supreme court ruled Tuesday, resolving an issue that has divided opinion for decades.

A long-awaited ruling gives the government a green light to remove Franco's remains from the Catholic basilica, the Valley of the Fallen, just outside Madrid.

The nationalist ruler was interred in the mausoleum -- which was partially built by political prisoners of his regime and is the site of a mass grave of Spanish Civil War victims -- soon after his death in 1975.

It has since become a draw for tourists and far-right sympathizers who rally at it on the anniversary of Franco's death on November 20.

The court also rejected the request made by the Franco family for the body of the dictator be buried in the Cathedral of La Almudena in central Madrid.

His remains, therefore, will be taken to the cemetery of Mingorrubio (in El Pardo to the north of Madrid) where the dictator's wife is buried.

The exhumation was one of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's key policy pledges when he came into power last year. It was made a royal decree in August 2018 by the incumbent Socialist Party, but Franco's family appealed the decision in the courts.

Franco ruled Spain from the late 1930s until his death. Thousands of executions were carried out by his nationalist regime during the Spanish Civil War and in the following years.

After World War II, he was seen by many as the last surviving fascist dictator and was ostracized by the United Nations. His regime was partly rehabilitated during the Cold War because of Franco's staunch anti-communist ideology.

In 2007, the Spanish government passed the Law of Historical Memory, which formally condemns the Franco regime and bans political events at the Valley of the Fallen. It also recognizes the victims of the civil war and the Francoist state and pledges aid to those victims and their descendants.

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