The final Franco regime also harshly repressed | Babelia


The Public Order Court, known by its acronym TOP, created in 1963 and disappeared on January 4, 1977, a long year after Franco’s death, still remains, like an embers of memory, in the memory of today’s Spaniards , who were young in the last years of the dictatorship.

For those born in democracy, however, this acronym has ceased to have its original meaning and has been associated with very diverse others, even of a commercial nature, which reveals the black holes that the democratic memory of the Spanish suffers and the difficulty to articulate a common memory of minimums around democratic values ​​and rejection of the impositions of force and the dictatorship.

Juan José del Águila, with his work The TOP. The repression of freedom (1963-1977), a second expanded edition of a first published in 2001, makes an essential, even unique, contribution to this stunted and devalued democratic memory. He reveals with abundant data and documentation, after alternating his office as social judge for years with hours of research in historical and judicial archives, the enormous repressive work carried out by the Public Order Court in the final stage of the Franco regime.

In the first place, it reveals the crude maneuvering of that regime in attempting to whitewash, with an eye on the United States and Europe, the political repression it exercised, through a judicial body formally incardinated in an ordinary justice already exceptional in a dictatorship. . In fact, the new Court began to exercise, through other procedures, the same repressive task that, since the Civil War, it has kept military justice for itself.

That camouflage could not hide that the TOP was and acted as a special court, with its own judges and prosecutors and with better remuneration, with its own judicial police, the Political-Social Brigade, with exclusive competence in crimes of a political nature, with procedural guarantees restricted rights and a limited right of defense and conditional on the defender not thinking of asking questions, under the risk of contempt, about possible torture or mistreatment suffered by his client in the dungeons of the Political-Social Brigade.

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Juan José del Águila’s research also raises the thesis that Francoism was in its last years, and while Franco was dying, a paternalistic and tolerant dictatorship. The mere fact of the existence of five hundred summaries opened when the TOP disappeared on January 4, 1977, would suffice to show the fallacy of this thesis.

The author suffered in his person the repression of TOP. First as a member of the Communist Party of Spain and later as a defender before that Court, by opposing the fact that they were tried in absentia, without the minimum guarantees, two young anti-Francoists whom he defended. Despite being jailed as a political prisoner on two occasions, his work does not reflect any hint of victimhood.

The 559 pages of The TOP. The repression of freedom (1963-1977) they constitute a warehouse of data, documents and analysis on the repressive action of this special court: 9,164 defendants identified by their names and surnames in an appendix of the work; 6,348 convicted by final sentence to a total of 11,711 years in prison and who suffered jail for months or years as political prisoners (several hundred were still in jail, mainly in the Madrid of Carabanchel, when the dictator died in November 1975), and 50,714 citizens suffered inconvenience and pressure with subpoenas or the opening of proceedings that were finally archived. A function of the TOP, no less important than that of judging, was to instill fear and show that it was vigilant in close conjunction with the political police of the Political-Social Brigade.

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The work of Juan José del Águila also offers rigorous analytical tables on the socio-professional origin, marital status, date and place of birth and age of the reprisals by the TOP, shedding light on which were the social sectors -workers, students, professionals diverse …- more combative of the anti-Franco opposition in the last years of the dictatorship.

In short, a work sober in its considerations and objective and documented in the facts, although it is possible to guess the unease of the author when inquiring into the performance of the judges and prosecutors who served in the TOP, their ability to twist the Law and their lack scruples in becoming an essential piece of the repressive machinery of a regime at the top of which was a person who proclaimed the Law and the source of the Law.

If the political forces ever agreed, by a little less than miraculous initiative, to create something like a Museum of Democratic Memory, in which, for example, the 1978 Constitution, Government Decrees and Parliamentary Agreements on the recognition and compensation of the victims of the Civil War and the dictatorship, oral testimonies and graphic documentation on the arduous recovery of the remains of the victims thrown in mass graves, The TOP The repression of freedom (1963-1977) it deserves to occupy a special showcase.

His exhibition might serve to remind the Spaniards of today, including those who still live in the shelter of the family Francoism and those who are determined to rekindle the ashes of sociological Francoism such as the VOX party, that a Spain that denies freedoms and persecutes and imprisons who intend to exercise them, such as the one that documents and history the work The TOP. The repression of freedom (1963-1977)It is not the best of the possible ones, but the one that has to freeze the heart of the little Spaniard who comes to the world, in an imperishable verse by Antonio Machado.

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The dictatorial regime of which the great poet was also a victim would end, forty years later, as it began: repressing and imprisoning the new Spaniards who wanted freedom and democracy, with repressive instruments less expeditious than the Councils of War (although they did not renounce them). sometimes, with the death penalty included), but just as coercive and harmful, as the so-called Public Order Court, better known and remembered by its countless victims for its acronym TOP.

The TOP The repression of freedom (1963-1977). Juan Jose Del Águila. Fundación Abogados de Atocha and Ministry of the Presidency, Relations with the Courts and Democratic Memory, 2021. 559 pages. 18 euros.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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