Spain rules 'stolen baby' doctor guilty but he cannot be punished

Ines Madrigal, who alleges she was one of Spain's "stolen babies" and has taken former doctor Eduardo Vela to court for falsifying her birth certificate to give her to her adoptive mother, walks out of the court after receiving the verdict in Madrid, Spain, October 8, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

MADRID (Reuters) - A Spanish doctor accused of stealing and selling a baby during the dictatorship is guilty of all charges but cannot be punished due to the statute of limitations, a Madrid court said on Monday.

The court said 85-year-old Spanish gynecologist Eduardo Vela was responsible for the abduction of a child, faking a birth and falsifying official documents but was absolved after the baby reached adulthood in 1987.

The lawyer of the woman at the center of the case, Ines Madrigal, told reporters outside the court they would appeal against the decision.

The statute of limitations imposes deadlines on courts to complete legal proceedings.

Madrigal, who was told by her mother at 18 that she was adopted, accused Vela of forging her 1969 birth certificate to show her adoptive mother, now dead, as her biological parent.

Vela, who had denied the charges, was the first person prosecuted over the “stolen babies” scandal that affected thousands during General Francisco Franco’s rule.

Many of the cases date back to the right-wing dictatorship of 1939-75 when campaigners say officials took babies from “unsuitable” mothers - often communist or leftists - and gave them to families with connections to the regime.

A decade ago, a Spanish judge recorded the cases of about 30,000 Spanish children taken at birth during Franco’s rule.

(Corrects dates of dictatorship in seventh para.)

Reporting by Sergio Perez; Writing by Paul Day; Editing by Jesus Aguado and Ed Osmond