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Dictator’s manor in Galicia ruled to be the property of the state

A judge in north-west Spain has ruled that the Galician manor where Gen Francisco Franco spent his summers is the property of the state and has ordered the dictator’s descendants to hand it over after 82 years of possession.

The Pazo de Meirás, which was built between 1893 and 1907, was bought by public subscription and handed to Franco as a gift from the people of A Coruña in 1938, a year before the end of the Spanish civil war.

However, Spain’s justice ministry – which began proceedings to recover the property last summer – argued that local people had been forced to contribute to the public subscription, and that Franco’s subsequent purchase of the manor in 1941 was fraudulent.

The government stepped in after the dictator’s heirs put the property up for sale for €8m (£7m) in February 2018.

On Wednesday, a judge in A Coruña, Galicia, ruled in the government’s favour, declaring the pazo belonged to the state and ordering the Franco family to relinquish it.

The judge, Marta Canales, noted that the group that bought the manor in 1938 had given it “to the generalísimo of the armies and the head of the national state” – but not to Franco by name.

She also ruled that Franco’s purchase of the property in May 1941 was invalid and had been a “fiction carried out with the sole intention of putting the property in his name”.

The Franco family is expected to appeal against the ruling.

The judge’s decision comes almost a year after Spain’s Socialist government finally made good on its promise to remove the dictator’s remains from the Valley of the Fallen, the huge mausoleum outside Madrid where they have lain since his death in 1975.

The Socialist party had long argued that the mausoleum, surmounted by a 150-metre (490ft) cross, had served to glorify the dictator while ignoring the 500,000 people killed during the civil war.