Spanish government criticised for renewing titles issued under Franco

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Noble titles awarded by the late dictator General Francisco Franco should be withdrawn, an association seeking recognition for the victims of the Spanish Civil War and ensuing fascist regime has said.

The socialist government of Prime Minister Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose own grandfather was shot by fascist forces during the three year conflict, has faced fierce criticism after it emerged that one of the most controversial titles bestowed by Franco was renewed last month.

The former justice minister Mariano Fernandez Bermejo in February gave permission to the descendants of one of the most brutal of Franco's generals to continue to use the title of Duke of Mola and Grandee of Spain.

The title was created by Franco in 1948 in recognition of General Emilio Mola's role in leading the military uprising against the Left-wing Republicans. But campaigners argue that such honours are inappropriate and should be annulled.

Gen Mola, who led the Nationalist forces in the north of Spain, is credited with one of the conflict's most violent campaigns.

The Law of Historic Memory forces the removal of all public symbols of the Franco era, such as statues and plaques, and to rename streets associated with the dictator and the generals who fought alongside him.

Judge Baltasar Garzon, who dropped a probe into human rights abuses under pressure from prosecutors late last year, said about 114,000 people were killed after summary trials and in other kinds of reprisals during and after the civil war.

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