Historical Memory
Culture 18/10/2021

Martín Villa refuses to return revoked Gold Medal and takes City Council to court

The former governor of Barcelona during Franco's regime has appealed to Catalonia's High Court

2 min
Rodolfo Martín Villa

BarcelonaIt is not easy for those who participated in the repression of Franco's regime to take responsibility. To judge them in the Spanish state has been impossible until now. But it is also a real odyssey for them to return the medals that have been revoked in democracy. The councillor of Democratic Memory, Jordi Rabassa, has expressed his regret at this situation. For over four years, the City Council of Barcelona has reached different agreements to withdraw the Medalla d'Or de la Ciutat to different people, most of them related to the dictatorship's repression and given honours by the Francoist city council. These decisions, however, have been ignored and neither the recipients nor their families have handed them back. The only exception is Jordi Pujol, who returned his voluntarily, despite the fact that there was no agreement in the plenary session of the City Council to revoke it.

Former minister Rodolfo Martín Villa has gone further and has not only refused to return his but has taken Barcelona City Council to court. In March 2017, the Council formalised his decision to revoke the medal of the city's former civil governor under Franco's regime. All parties voted in favour, except the People's Party and Ciudadanos, who abstained. The former Francoist governor did not agree and decided to challenge the decision in a Barcelona's court, which dismissed the appeal. Martin Villa did not give up and filed an appeal to Catalonia's High Court. Now the Barcelona City Council awaits the court's decision. "It is surprising that on symbolic issues such as this, the judiciary plays along with those who represent Franco's regime. If they cannot accept that a city council remove a symbolic medal, just imagine when we talk about mass graves, crimes, torture and crimes against humanity. If not even a medal can be removed, it is clear that it is impossible to judge him", says Rabassa.

Barcelona City Council decided to withdraw the medal from Martín Villa because it holds him responsible for the direct repression of citizens who participated in the democratic social movements of the time, and considers him to be politically responsible for the police's persecution, ill-treatment, torture and humiliation during the dictatorship. On the other hand, Martin Villa went to court because he believes that there are not enough reasons to withdraw the decoration and also regrets that he could not defend himself against the accusations.

The former minister is also facing trial in Argentina, where judge María Servini has been investigating Franco's regime's crimes since 2010. Judge Servini holds him responsible for the murder of three workers in Vitoria in 1976 and the death of Germán Rodríguez, shot by police in Pamplona during the 1978 Sanfermines. Martin Villa has announced that he will also appeal.