Zaragoza 2nd Spanish city to seek probe into Franco crimes

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MADRID (AP) — Zaragoza has become the second city in Spain to call for an investigation into crimes allegedly committed within its boundaries by the dictatorship of the late Gen. Francisco Franco, a statement said Saturday.

The northern city's council approved a resolution asking a local magistrates court to investigate "crimes against humanity" by Franco's regime, the statement said.

Civil rights groups backed by the United Nations have urged Spain to probe executions, disappearances and other crimes that have left many families wondering where their ancestors were buried or why exactly they were killed.

A month ago, Pamplona became the first city to push for a probe. Spain never officially investigated crimes under the rule of Franco, who led an army uprising that crushed the republican Spanish government in 1939.

While republican atrocities were "processed" by Franco's regime — with many summary executions taking place — those within his government who allegedly committed crimes were covered by an amnesty granted two years after Franco's death in 1975.

The Zaragoza council also voted to "eliminate street names and symbols" erected by the Franco regime that it considered triumphalist, a process that other Spanish cities including the capital, Madrid, have pledged to undertake.

Jacinto Lara, who helped initiate the push for a probe, said Zaragoza's main jail had housed many republican politicians and many were given cursory trials, with around 4,000 subsequently executed by firing squads as late as 1946.

Civic groups say some 130,000 people killed in Spain under Franco are still unaccounted for. Lara said it is up to Spain's judiciary to consider if the time has come to look into official records. "Up until now, no one has been able to officially investigate the real facts because Interior Ministry, army and church records have been off limits."

Lara said crimes against humanity cannot be covered by unilaterally imposed amnesties as in Spanish law they have no statute of limitations.

Leandro Piragini, a spokesman for the cause, said records showed that more than 30,000 Zaragoza residents had their property confiscated and goods embargoed after Franco's victory in the 1936-1939 civil war.

Judge Baltasar Garzon launched a probe into the dictatorship's alleged crimes in 2008, but it halted when Garzon was barred from the bench in 2012 for overstepping his jurisdiction in a different case.

Several other cities around Spain are also planning to vote for probes, said Lara.

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