Remains of '17 roses' exhumed in Spain

2012-01-30 22:54

Gerena - Archaeologists are unearthing the remains of 17 women who were shot during Spain's 1936-39 civil war and dumped in a mass grave, one of the conflict's most notorious events.

Since the exhumation began last week, the remains of 14 of the 17 women have been discovered at the cemetery in the southwestern town of Gerena, said 25-year-old Lucia Socam, whose great-aunt Granada Hidalgo was among one of the victims.

The skeleton of one of the women was removed from the mass grave on Monday so her descendants can give her a proper burial, she added.

The women, dubbed the "17 roses", were rounded up and shot by General Francisco Franco's forces in 1937 for being relatives of people on the opposing Republican side.

The exhumation, which is expected to take another week, comes as top Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon prepares to testify for the first time on Tuesday at his trial for abuse of power for trying to prosecute atrocities of the Franco regime.

Thousands of people marched through the streets of Madrid on Sunday in support of the 56-year-old judge, who won international fame with his attempt to extradite Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet from London.

"He is the only person who dared to attack the crimes of the Franco regime," said Maria Jose Dominguez, 45, the grand-daughter of another one of the 17 slain women.

Archaeologists working on the exhumation found bullets, buttons and a comb near the women's bones.

"It is hard because the grave raises many things: We can see how they were thrown into it, one on top of the other," said Socam.

"But we are happy of course because it is the end of such a long wait, it is more of a happy feeling than one of being bitter."