Forensic scientists will on Monday begin the exhumation of 128 victims of the Spanish Civil War from a vast burial complex near Madrid, El Pais newspaper reported.
It will be the first exhumation of its kind involving people whose bodies were moved from elsewhere after the 1936-1939 war and reburied without their families’ permission in the Valley of Cuelgamuros, which was formerly known as Valley of the Fallen.
El Pais reported that forensic scientists have installed a laboratory inside the vast burial site, which includes a monument and 150-meter-high cross, on the outskirts of Madrid prior to the exhumation work beginning.
The remains of some 34,000 people, many of them victims of Franco’s regime, are buried anonymously in the complex. Relatives of those whose remains lie inside have been fighting for years to give their loved ones a burial under their own names near their families.
Purificacion Lapena has been campaigning for the remains of her grandfather Manuel Lapena and his brother Antonio, a blacksmith, to be removed from the mausoleum.
“I have not been told anything about this,” she told Reuters by telephone. In 2016, a court approved the exhumation of the brothers, but seven years later the family is still waiting.
In April, the remains of Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of Spain’s fascist Falange movement that supported the Francoist regime, were exhumed from the mausoleum.
His exhumation, which follows the 2019 removal of the remains of dictator Francisco Franco, is part of a plan to convert the complex built by Franco on a mountain near the capital into a memorial to the 500,000 people killed during Spain’s 1936-39 civil war.
At the time of Primo de Rivera’s exhumation, Presidency Minister Felix Bolanos said: “No person or ideology that evokes the dictatorship should be honored or extolled there.”
The Spanish government did not respond to Reuters’ request for confirmation of the report.