Madrid (CNN)It is an issue that has divided Spanish opinion for decades, but the remains of fascist dictator Gen. Francisco Franco will be exhumed and relocated on Thursday, Spain's government said Monday.
Spain will exhume and move former dictator's remains this week
Franco was buried in a grand mausoleum called the Valley of the Fallen, northwest of Madrid, soon after his death in 1975.
The monument, which was partially built by political prisoners of his regime and is the site of a mass grave of Spanish Civil War victims, has since become a draw for tourists and far-right sympathizers who rally at it on the anniversary of Franco's death on November 20.
In September, Spain's Supreme Court ruled that the dictator could be exhumed from the mausoleum. His remains will be relocated to the Mingorrubio state cemetery in El Pardo, 12 miles north of Madrid, where his wife is buried.
The exhumation was one of acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's key policy pledges when he came into power last year and was made a royal decree in August 2018 by the incumbent Socialist Party.
Franco's family and his far-right supporters have opposed the plan and the family appealed the decision in the courts.
The Supreme Court also rejected the family's request for the body to be buried in the Cathedral of La Almudena in central Madrid.
A Spanish commission, endorsed by the United Nations, had previously called for the exhumation in 2011. The conservative Popular Party (PP), which came to power in a November the same year, did not act on the recommendation.
Franco ruled Spain from the late 1930s until his death. Thousands of executions were carried out by his nationalist regime during the Spanish Civil War and in the following years.
After World War II, he was seen by many as the last surviving fascist dictator and was ostracized by the United Nations. His regime was partly rehabilitated during the Cold War because of Franco's staunch anti-communist ideology.
In 2007, the Spanish government passed the Law of Historical Memory, which formally condemns the Franco regime and bans political events at the Valley of the Fallen. It also recognizes the victims of the civil war and the Francoist state and pledges aid to those victims and their descendants.