This practice, which came to light in 2011, lasted more than seven decades and may have involved 30,000 children or more, experts say. During the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, this system of abduction was designed to weaken Marxist forces by depriving them of their children. Parents were often told that their babies had died at the operating table when, in fact, they had been given away. In the 1950s, this practice evolved to target low-income families and unmarried couples seen as inappropriate guardians of young children.
The abductions ended in the late 1980s, but thousands are seeking justice today. More than 2,000 cases of stolen children have been filed with Spanish prosecutors, CNN reported. Madrigal is among those filing suit, and she took her obstetrician, Eduardo Vela, to court on Tuesday.
Vela, now 85, is the first person to stand trial over this practice, which is said to have involved a vast network of medical, governmental and church officials. In 2013, 88-year-old nun María Gómez Valbuena was accused of kidnapping a pair of twins, but she died before she was called to testify. Since then, various cases around this issue have been shelved because of a lack of evidence or because the statute of limitations has passed, meaning it is too late to file charges against an alleged perpetrator.
Prosecutors are seeking an 11-year prison term for Vela, who has been charged with illegally detaining a minor and falsification of public record. They say he forged a birth certificate that he gave to her adopted mother.
Even before Vela arrived at the Madrid court on Tuesday morning, dozens had gathered outside with signs calling for “human rights for stolen babies” and yellow gloves to symbolize missing relatives.
One of those present was Carmen Lorente, a mother from Seville who told AFP that medical officials had told her in 1979 that her baby son had suffocated in her womb even though she recalled hearing his cries.
“It is a very important day for all those who are affected and for all mothers,” Lorente said. “Because a precedent is created by this man sitting in the dock.”