Spain exhumes civil war victim as calls grow for truth commission

The Telegraph

As volunteers dig for the remains of Timoteo Mendieta, Spanish politicians are being urged to open an investigation into the civil war 

When volunteers start digging for the remains of Timoteo Mendieta on Tuesday, it will mark the first exhumation of a civil war victim to take place under a court order since the Spanish dictator’s death in 1975.

Mendieta, murdered by pro-Franco forces in 1939, was placed in a mass grave on the edge of Guadalajara cemetery, one of more than 100,000 victims of summary executions during the 1936-39 civil war and the repression meted out by Franco’s fascist regime in its aftermath.

Aside from some recent efforts to remove symbols which celebrate Francoism, Spain’s democratic institutions have done little to atone for the violence.

Mendieta's daughter, now 90, has fought for years to have the mass grave examined
Spanish dictator Francisco Franco

Ascensión Mendieta travelled to Argentina in search of justice - it was a Buenos Aires judge, investigating crimes against humanity committed by the Franco regime, who requested the exhumation. Unprecedentedly, a court in Spain agreed to the dig.

“The Spanish state cannot ignore the victims,” said Jordi Gordon, a journalist and filmmaker who is leading the Platform for a Truth Commission, which has the backing of around 100 associations linked to the historical memory movement around Spain.

Mr Gordon launched his campaign after the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights criticised Spain for standing aside and leaving the work of exhuming bodies to associations of volunteers. Establishing a truth commission was among a series of recommendations made by the UN in 2014, but the Popular Party (PP) government of Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister, has done nothing to implement this action plan.

The Rajoy administration also left the existing historical memory law “dead in the water” by eliminating its budget, said Mr Gordon.

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Supporters of a new Republic call for a change in government

El Pais in English

More than 2,000 people turned out on Monday evening for a demonstration in downtown Madrid in support of the abolition of Spain’s constitutional monarchy and the reestablishment of a Republican form of government.
Marching under scores of tricolor flags from the II Republic and Spanish Communist Party flags, supporters said they had a number of reasons why they believe Spain should change its current form of government.
“We are here today because we believe that having the king as a figurehead is useless,” said Miriam Jiménez, 18, an art restoration student.
“We believe that having the king as a figurehead is useless”
“I lived in silence and in fear during the post-war period, with one uncle who had gone missing and my father in jail,” explained 70-year-old Concha Torralba, who was wearing a purple top, one of the colors of the old Republican flag.
“I came here to march in our own true colors and not those of the occupation forces,” she said.
“The economic crisis has now brought on a political crisis,” said Francisco Pérez Esteban, one of the coordinators of the event. “We believe that the only way out is to establish a new Republic.”·
The march was organized by the National Board for the Republic platform.
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