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Late Spanish dictator's family can keep valuable artifacts sought by state, court rules

Published 21st April 2021
Franco used the manor house in northwestern Spain as a summer home.
Credit: MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP/Getty Images
Late Spanish dictator's family can keep valuable artifacts sought by state, court rules
Written by Jack Guy, CNN
A Spanish court has ruled that the family of the late dictator General Francisco Franco is entitled to keep a treasure trove of artifacts claimed by the state.
In a statement published Tuesday, the provincial court of A Coruña, northwest Spain, said Franco's family were entitled to keep precious tables, chairs, crockery, artworks and carpets housed at the Pazo de Meirás, a spectacular manor house once used by the fascist dictator as a summer home.
The house contains valuable artworks.
The house contains valuable artworks. Credit: Xurxo Lobato/Getty Images
Valuable items in the house include two statues by medieval sculptor Master Mateo.
The county court in A Coruña previously ruled that the Franco family had to hand over the keys to the house. However, judges from the provincial court said the the ruling only covered property rights over the land on which the house is built, not items contained within it.
This is because the Spanish government did not claim ownership of the items in its initial case, the judges said, although it had the right to do so.
Franco (R), pictured at Pazo de Meiras in August 1975
Franco (R), pictured at Pazo de Meiras in August 1975 Credit: Central Press/Hulton Royals Collection/Getty Images
The judges added that the state can claim ownership of items that it considers to be part of Spain's national heritage in a separate complaint.
On February 12, the provincial court ruled that the Pazo de Meirás itself is the property of the Spanish state, upholding a September 2020 ruling by the county court.
CNN has contacted Spain's national heritage agency and the National Francisco Franco Foundation for comment.
Spain continues to grapple with the legacy of Franco, who ruled the country from the late 1930s until his death in 1975.
Thousands of executions were carried out by his nationalist regime during the Spanish Civil War and in the years that followed.
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, a huge mausoleum built to commemorate the victims of the civil war, which houses the remains of more than 33,000 people.
The law also recognizes the victims of the civil war and the Francoist state and pledges aid to those victims and their descendants.
In October 2019, Franco's remains were exhumed from the Valley of the Fallen, which was partially built by political prisoners of his regime. The exhumation was a key policy pledge from Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez when he came to power in 2018.
Franco's family and his far-right supporters opposed the plan and the family unsuccessfully appealed the decision in the courts. Franco's remains were moved to the nearby Mingorrubio state cemetery in El Pardo, 12 miles north of Madrid, where his wife is buried.
The Valley of the Fallen has become a draw for tourists and far-right sympathizers who conduct annual rallies on the anniversary of Franco's death on November 20.