A Madrid court has provisionally suspended a license to exhume Gen. Francisco Franco from the Valley of the Fallen, a mausoleum on the outskirts of the city where the former military dictator's body has rested since 1975.
Following a private lawsuit, a court order, which was dated Feb. 25 but obtained by EFE Tuesday, approved the provisional suspension of a building license issued by the City Council of San Lorenzo de El Escorial — the municipality that is home to the monumental basilica with Franco's remains.
The lawsuit challenged the Town Hall's report which was dated Nov. 26, 2018, in which authorities said "the planned urban works that would involve the lifting of the marble floor, the removal of the slab of stone that covers Francisco Franco's grave and its relocation to another place were acceptable."
The plaintiff argued that the decision by Spain's Council of Ministers on Feb. 15 — by which the government ordered the exhumation of the ex-dictator — implied it was "imminent" but that given Franco had been buried there for 44 years it could not be deemed of "special urgency."
The complainant went on to say that there was some doubt as to whether the required building works for the exhumation "conformed to current legislation," or whether they could go ahead ensuring the "safety of people."
"It is important to bear in mind that this would involve removing slabs of marble that in turn cover a granite slab that weighs around 2,000 kilos," the plaintiff continued.
The plaintiff also added that an expert report drafted by architects suggested that the exhumation documents "lacked a rigorous analysis of security, stability and any underground structures that might be under Franco's grave."
The court order cannot be appealed although the Town Hall of San Lorenzo of El Escorial has three days to present a claim.
Spain's parliament on Sept. 15 approved the exhumation of the body of Franco with the backing of all parliamentary groups with the exception of the conservative opposition Popular Party and Ciudadanos, both of which abstained.
From the date parliament backed the move, Franco's family had 15 days to suggest where the former dictator's remains would be relocated once the exhumation was underway.
The government ruled out the possibility of Franco's body going to the Almudena, Madrid's cathedral and the spot the family had previously said they would settle for, in order to avoid public homages to the dictator something that could disturb public order.
If the family did not supply an alternative burial ground the government would take the final decision.
The Valley of the Fallen has acted as a massive reminder of the war and the brutal dictatorship that followed it and has been a constant concern for governments since Spain's return to democracy after Franco's death in 1975.
The vast mausoleum, topped by a cross that can be seen from many miles away, was built over two decades by using the forced labor of thousands of Republican prisoners.
Many died during the construction and from lung illnesses caused by having to breathe in particles of the granite from which the mausoleum and its large underground basilica were hewn.
Franco personally supervised the location and construction of the monument, which includes a huge ossuary containing the remains of nearly 40,000 combatants, both Republican and Francoist, who were killed during the war.
Spain's Law of Historical Memory was originally approved by the government of Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who held office from 2004-2011.
The United Nations has repeatedly admonished Spain for not complying with its human rights obligations when it comes to restoring justice to Republican victims of the Civil War and failing to end the impunity enjoyed by officials who committed crimes against humanity during the dictatorship's so-called White Terror, which saw the execution of between 200,000-400,000 of Franco's opponents, according to estimates by various historians.