With a voice so faint and hoarse it sounded like a whisper, an elderly Spanish woman dressed in black gave Spain’s court system on Wednesday its first oral account of right-wing atrocities committed during the country’s civil war.
The historic testimony from 81-year-old Maria Martin came at the trial of Spain’s most prominent judge, Baltasar Garzon, who is facing criminal charges for having opened a probe into such crimes during and after Spain’s 1936-1939 civil war.
The civil war and its ruinous aftermath of hunger and disease left an estimated 500,000 people dead, and accounts abound of atrocities that both sides committed during the conflict as Gen. Francisco Franco’s right-wing forces overthrew a leftist Republican government and established a dictatorship.
The Franco regime carried out a thorough accounting of civilians killed by Republican troops or militia. But since Franco died in 1975 and democracy was restored three years later, no official government probe has been conducted of atrocities by his supporters, until Garzon launched one in 2008. Those crimes involve the deaths or disappearances of more than 100,000 people.
Garzon, 56, has been accused by two right-wing groups of knowingly overstepping his jurisdiction, a charge that could effectively end his stellar judicial career.