Spain's Franco hailed after civil war abuse probe dropped
23 Nov 2008
By Martin Roberts
MADRID, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Hundreds of people giving Fascist salutes rallied in Madrid on Sunday to mark the death of former Spanish ruler General Francisco Franco, days after a judge gave up an attempt to investigate atrocities during the 1936-39 civil war and the dictatorship that followed.
Many at the rally wore the blue uniform shirt and red beret of the far-right Falange party and other symbols of Franco's regime as they gathered outside the Palacio de Oriente, a former royal palace and site of his last public appearance.
"I am here out of gratitude and homage to those who fell in the war of liberation from Marxism," said Francisca Garcia from Seville, referring to the conflict which followed a rebellion led by Franco and resulted in a dictactorship which only ended with his death in 1975.
Garcia was still smarting at a new law which banned her from wearing her uniform and other political symbols at a mass held at Franco's tomb the day before.
"This goverment is a left-wing dictatorship," she said, then crossed herself as a priest on a stage blessed Franco.
However, a reknowned judge this week dropped attempts to probe the disappearance of 130,000 people, many of them summarily shot by Franco's forces and buried in mass graves.
Prosecutors said the investigation defied a 1977 amnesty law covering the civil war. Conservatives said the move would re-open old wounds.
Judge Baltasar Garzon said he now expected local courts to open 19 mass graves he had identified and exhume remains including those of poet Federico Garcia Lorca.
Garzon came to prominence when he tried to extradite former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet for human rights crimes, which drew charges of hypocrisy as no one in Spain had been prosecuted on similar grounds.
In contrast to truth commissions set up after Latin American dictatorships such as Argentina and Chile, Spain has shied away from confronting the bloodshed during and after its civil war as it emerged as a prosperous liberal democracy post-Franco.
But relatives who helped compile lists of the disappeared for Garzon say they will continue their long campaign to unearth and identify victims' remains.
"If this door closes in the High Court, we still have the moral argument of so many families who want to find their relatives," said Emilio Silva, president of the Association for the Recovery of Historic Memory.
(Reporting by Martin Roberts; Editing by Angus MacSwan)