Europe

Argentine judge indicts Spanish Franco-era minister on murder charges

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Local workers load a statue of former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, the last one remaining in Spain, into a truck after removing it from its location in Melilla, Spain, February 23, 2021.REUTERS/Jesus Blasco de Avellaneda

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BARCELONA, Oct 16 (Reuters) - An Argentine judge investigating cases stemming from the Franco dictatorship in Spain has indicted a former Spanish minister on four counts of homicide, according to court papers seen by Reuters on Saturday.

Judge Maria Servini de Cuba, sitting in Buenos Aires, issued the ruling against Rodolfo Martin Villa, 87, interior minister between 1976 and 1979.

The judge wrote that she consideredMartin Villa "the prima facie perpetrator criminally responsible for the crime of aggravated homicide, repeated on at least four occasions, of which Pedro María Martínez Ocio, Romualdo Barroso Chaparro, Francisco Aznar Clemente and Germán Rodríguez Saíz were victims".

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Martin Villa told the Spanish newspaper ABC: "I am calm. I will appeal."

Spain passed an amnesty law in 1977 that pardoned crimes committed by the Franco dictatorship.

Hundreds of Spaniards have tried to get around this by turning to an Argentine court, under the principle of universal justice, to address crimes committed against them and their families during General Francisco Franco's 36-year right-wing dictatorship.

Judge Servini wrote that Martin Villa had played a key role in the repressive structures of the dictatorship, which continued in the years immediately after Franco's death in 1975.

"It is great news for the victims, who have been claiming for many years," said Máximo Castex, a lawyer for the relatives of the victims.

The judge ordered Martin Villa, who lives in Madrid, to be detained but said it was unlikely to happen.

Fernando Goldaracena, the ex-minister's lawyer, did not reply to requests for comment.

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Reporting by Graham Keeley; Editing by Christina Fincher and Kevin Liffey

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