Franco's body can be moved, says Supreme Court, but not quite yet

Valle de los Caídos.
Valle de los Caídos. / EP
  • Judges rule that the dictator's remains should leave the Valle de los Caídos but can't be reburied in Madrid's cathedral as his family wants

The Supreme Court in Madrid has unanimously backed the government and said that the remains of General Franco can be removed from their ceremonial resting place in the Valle de los Caídos monument, outside Madrid, and placed in a simpler grave.

The family of the late dictator had launched court action against the decision by the cabinet, which had been previously approved by MPs, on the grounds that the exhumation violated their human rights. His grandchildren completely opposed a reburial but indicated, if it were to happen, it could be in the family crypt in a public part of Madrid's Almudena Cathedral and not in the quieter El Pardo cemetery on the edges of the city as the government wants.

The judges backed the move by the ruling Socialist-PSOE party to move the body, citing recent Historical Memory law which says the controversial Valle de Los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen) site must only hold victims of the Spanish Civil War. As Franco died naturally, he shouldn't be there, the Supreme Court ruled. They also agreed with the government that using the cathedral would be a security risk.

However the removal to the El Pardo cemetery will not be immediate. The full judgement when published is expected to include conditions. In addition, the Franco family's lawyer said they will appeal to the Constitutional Court. There is also other court action under way to stop the removal, including a claim that planning permission is needed to move the two-tonne gravestone in the listed site.

In his annual speech to the United Nations on Tuesday, acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez referred to the Supreme Court verdict. "We have symbolically closed the democratic circle," he said.