The exhumation of the mortal remains of victims of the Franco regime in the Valley of the Fallen will start up again. Different sources from the Government and National Heritage explain to elDiario.es that the work to proceed with the extraction of the bodies will be launched in the shortest possible time, without ruling out that they wait for the sentence to be final in the event of a hypothetical resource. The process will start again after almost a year of judicial hiatus for precautionary measures lifted yesterday by the Superior Court of Justice of Madrid.
A court in Madrid decided in November of last year that the process should be paralyzed in a precautionary manner. He did so considering the request of a lawyer, Francisco Javier Zaragoza, on behalf of the Association for Reconciliation and Historical Truth, who attacked in his writings the license that the town hall of San Lorenzo de El Escorial had granted to National Heritage to start the work and attempt to carry out the exhumation.
In National Heritage they understand that this resolution is a green light to start the process to remove the remains of more than 80 victims from Cuelgamuros. The sentence explains that this decision of the Superior Court of Madrid is appealable before the Supreme Court and its third chamber, but a new stoppage would go through a new request for precautionary measures with little sign of prospering after the arguments of this resolution. It remains to be seen if Patrimony waits for the resolution, if there is an appeal, to be declared firm.
The court that provisionally suspended the building license in November of last year explained that there was a risk of irreversibly damaging the columbariums if the work was started. "The damages that could be caused if actions are carried out before the final sentence is pronounced are evident, since the original construction would have disappeared," said the 10th contentious court. If the process were to start, he added, "modifications would occur in an element integrated into a comprehensive protection package that would render ineffective the ruling of a judgment that was upheld."
The State Attorney appealed these injunctions on behalf of National Heritage and the response of the Superior Court of Justice of Madrid was advanced this Tuesday by elDiario.es. The contentious judges understand the opposite, that the works that are planned in the crypts of the Valley of the Fallen do not put the structure at risk.
"It does not follow that the scope of the intervention that is the object of the license entails an irreversible urban transformation of the crypts and neither that it involves actions that exceed those of maintenance, consolidation and recovery," say the judges in a sentence that has had José Ramón Chulvi as rapporteur.
In National Heritage they interpret that they have the green light to undertake the work that will allow, at the end of the process, to try to exhume the mortal remains of more than 80 victims. There is one last step that is still awaited in this body: if the association that requested the precautionary measures appeals this sentence before the third chamber of the Supreme Court, one possibility would be to wait for the inadmissibility of the appeal to begin the work. Being a process of precautionary measures, the terms would not be as long as in a normal appeal.
The objective of National Heritage, before the judicial suspension now lifted, was to rehabilitate the accesses to the crypts of the basilica in order to identify and exhume the remains. Last September 2021, the Government reported that it was launching the technical processes.
The objective, according to the Ministry of the Presidency at the time, was to install the necessary technical infrastructure and organize the workers who were going to participate. Then they would proceed to delimit the intervention area. A process that even then the Presidency defined as the "most complex of those that have been undertaken in our country and will be long in time due to the state of the crypts".
All these works were paralyzed by a judicial resolution that has now been annulled by a sentence that can still be appealed. That appeal before the Supreme Court would not have suspensive effects but Patrimony could, when the time comes and if there is a challenge, choose to wait for the appeal to be resolved.
At first there were 60 families who requested the exhumation of the mortal remains, but since then two dozen more have joined the process. People who, as they have denounced on many occasions, are already very old and who in some cases have died waiting for the work to start to see the remains of their relatives outside of what for decades was the tomb of the dictator.
One of these cases is that of Lapena brothers. Manuel and Antonio Ramiro were shot by Francoist troops in Catalayud in 1936. One of them had been a founder of the CNT in that city. A judge considered that there was a "high probability" that his remains were buried in the columbaria of the main crypt of the Valley. In his case, a court in San Lorenzo de El Escorial authorized his exhumation several years ago, something that has not happened to date.
The son of one of the two Lapeña brothers passed away end of 2021 without getting to see, therefore, the exhumation whose work will start in the coming months.
The exhumation of the mortal remains of these victims has followed a judicial path parallel to that of the extraction of the body of Francisco Franco from the crypt of the Valley of the Fallen. The Government had to wait until the Supreme Court approved the operation after studying the resources of various Francoist associations, as well as the far-right Vox party and the dictator's own family.
In that case, the Supreme Court expected as of September 24, 2019 to communicate that he unanimously dismissed the appeals of Franco's descendants against the agreement of the Council of Ministers that launched the exhumation process. In that case, the fourth contentious-administrative section waited to issue a ruling on the merits of the matter and, meanwhile, kept the process in abeyance.