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A Spanish court ruled Monday that a doctor stole a newborn child nearly five decades ago, one of the many abducted during Spain's 20th-century dictatorship, but cleared him because the statute of limitations had expired.

The Madrid court said 85-year-old gynecologist Eduardo Vela could not be punished because one of those who were stolen, plaintiff Ines Madrigal, did not make her complaint until 2012, more than a decade after the gravest crime had taken place.

The court did find, however, that Vela was responsible for abducting Madrigal in 1969, faking her birth by her adoptive parents and forging official documents.

Monday's verdict is Spain's first in relation to the wide-scale child trafficking that took place from the onset of the country's Civil War in 1936 to the death of dictator Gen. Francisco Franco in 1975.

The right-wing regime waged a campaign to take away the children of poor families, prisoners or political enemies, sometimes stripping women of their newborns by lying and saying they had died during labor. The children were then given to pro-Franco families or the church, who educated the children on the regime's ideology and on Roman Catholicism.

Vela, the director of a Madrid clinic considered to be at the epicenter of the scandal, denied the accusations during this year's trial.


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