The first victim of torture under Francoism to be heard by a judge in Spain, Julio Pacheco hopes to open “a breach in the wall of impunity” from which representatives of the regime still benefit, almost 50 years after Franco’s death.

“A wall of impunity” from which the victims of the dictatorship (1939-1975) have suffered “for so long”, insists this retiree, aged 67, who receives AFP at his home, in a working-class district of Madrid.

On Friday, Julio Pacheco will become the first victim of Francoism to be heard by a Spanish judge as part of his investigation.

“It’s an important step,” he says, “you have to understand that all this happened (nearly) 50 years ago.”

“Until now no one, no judge, had deemed a single complaint admissible, had heard (no victim), it’s the first time,” says this former printer who had all the trouble in the world to gather the documents necessary to establish his complaint in the face of the total lack of “cooperation” from the authorities.

According to victims’ organizations, justice has so far rejected around a hundred complaints for crimes committed during the dictatorship in the name of statute of limitations and the Amnesty law.

Adopted in October 1977, during the transition to democracy after the death of Franco in November 1975, this law prevents the prosecution of any political offense committed during the dictatorship by opponents but also by “civil servants and agents maintaining public order “.

In the case of Julio Pacheco, the magistrate admitted the complaint in May, citing “the possible existence” of “crimes against humanity and torture”, according to her decision consulted by AFP. Crimes that cannot be prescribed under international law, claim victims’ associations.

In Spain, “what was imposed was a pact of silence” after the end of the dictatorship, denounces Rosa María García, 66, the wife of Julio Pacheco.

Also tortured, she saw her complaint rejected by the courts. However, she will also be heard on Friday but as a witness while one of the tortures to which her husband was subjected was to see her being tortured herself.

Activists of a student organization linked to the Antifascist and Patriotic Revolutionary Front (FRAP), which fought against the dictatorship, Julio Pacheco and Rosa María García were arrested in August 1975.

Taken to the General Directorate of Security, located in the famous Puerta del Sol square in the heart of Madrid, they were tortured for several days by the secret police before being sent to prison, accused of terrorism.

They were released in December 1975, a month after Franco’s death, and then pardoned a few months later.

In his complaint, Julio Pacheco accuses four police officers of having tortured him, including José Manuel Villarejo, a sulphurous former commissioner involved in numerous scandals affecting the country’s economic and political elite and sentenced in June to 19 years in prison for espionage.

If he would like to see his torturers “sitting in the dock” one day, he would already be satisfied if the legal procedure made it possible to remind Spain “what Francoism was”.

Especially since the far right has made a reappearance in recent years with the Vox party which “wants to return to that era”, he accuses.

Vox and the traditional right of the Popular Party continue to criticize the desire of the government, which in October adopted its flagship law of “democratic memory”, to rehabilitate the victims of Francoism and accuse it of wanting to reopen the wounds of the past.

But “the only way to heal wounds is the truth (…) Otherwise, they will bleed forever”, retorts Julio Pacheco.

09/14/2023 14:50:14 –         Madrid (AFP) –         © 2023 AFP