Madrid, April 13 (IANS/EFE) Following a wave of allegations of illegal adoptions, Spain's government pledged Thursday to set up a database of infants who may have been stolen during the 1939-1975 Franco dictatorship and beyond.
The government announced that and other measures after meeting with associations of affected parents and families Thursday, the same day the first suspect in the baby-stealing scandal, 80-year-old Sister Maria Gomez Valbuena, appeared before Madrid's Superior Tribunal of Justice.
Prosecutors in different Spanish provinces are investigating hundreds of cases of alleged child-stealing, especially between 1950 and 1990.
The national government, which said the measures are aimed at "determining the real scope of the problem", also will create a working group coordinated by the Justice Ministry and the Attorney General's Office.
The Justice Ministry will facilitate efforts to gather evidence from public registries, including information about births and possible deaths of newborns over the past 50 years.
Health officials, for their part, will gather information from hospitals after gaining prior authorization, working in collaboration with regional health services.
More than 1,400 official enquiries had been opened.
Gomez Valbuena, who refused to testify in Thursday's hearing, is the first person accused in the scandal.
Maria Luisa Torres alleges the Sisters of Charity nun took her daughter from her in 1982 at a Madrid hospital.
The nun, who has been named in dozens of complaints filed by mothers who say their newborn children were stolen and "sold" into adoption, worked at the Santa Cristina hospital in the Spanish capital at the time the alleged crimes occurred.
Torres told the judge that Gomez Valbuena first tried to tell her the baby had died during labour and later said she was taking the newborn from her because she was an "adulterer" who was not married to the child's father.
The scandal came to light in 2008 following the passage of the Historical Memory Law, when Spaniards began learning about children being snatched away from Republican families and placed with Franco supporters during the 1936-1939 civil war and subsequent dictatorship.
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