The Catalan government and the Barcelona city council have celebrated the fact that former Spanish minister and prominent figure in the Franco dictatorship, Rodolfo Martín Villa, has been indicted by a court in Argentina for alleged crimes against humanity. “It was time” said Jordi Rabassa, councillor for democratic memory at Barcelona’s city council. “We have known for decades that not having been the executor does not absolve one of responsibility.” Argentine Judge María Servini de Cubría, who is investigating the crimes of the Franco regime, has prosecuted Spain’s former vice president for alleged murder and torture during the dictatorship.

“Argentine justice must be the one to judge one of the repressors of the Franco regime. What Spain does not look into must be done by foreign jurisdictions,” said the Catalan minister of justice, Lourdes Ciuró, in an act of remembrance of the more than 1,700 Republicans executed in Barcelona. “Only from living memory can we prevent fascism from spreading freely,” Catalan justice minister Ciuró said, denouncing it as a “collective shame” of Spain to “fail to repair and review its history.” She hopes that the Argentine judicial process against Martín Villa “is done with all guarantees and with a hearing of all parties.” “All we want is for the whole truth to be known and justice to be served, as always.”

Crimes against humanity

As reported over the weekend by Spain’s and El Público, who have had access to the court order, Martín Villa is being investigated for four homicides that took place during the transition to democracy very shortly after the death of Franco, when Villa was interior minister of the Spanish government. The most infamous incident among the four is the Vitoria massacre, the killing of five striking workers in the Basque capital. Martín Villa is also being charged with the 1977 murder of Arturo Ruiz, the police repression during the 1978 Sanfermín festival, and five more deaths during the 1977 Pro-Amnesty Week.

The court considers Martín Villa to have been “the highest authority of public order”, that the ex-minister held a “prominent position” in the Spanish executive during the events for which he has been prosecuted, and that from his position “the orders were given to those who were the direct executors of the crimes.” The Argentine judiciary has imposed on Villa, 87, a seizure of property worth 1,134 million Argentine pesos – about ten million euros – and pre-trial detention, from which he has been released.

The former minister will appeal against the decision to the Argentine Appeals Chamber. “I’m calm,” he told the newspaper ABC about the matter. Sources close to Martin Villa have assured the newspaper that they will file an appeal against the magistrate’s decision, which comes “several months after her court statement, in September 2020.” The newspaper states that Argentine law requires that the prosecution take place no later than ten days after the statement of the affected party and says the Appeals Chamber already ruled in favour of Martín Villa in 2017, when it refused to put out an arrest warrant against him.

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