Here’s an update from the Madrid-based Association of Friends of the International Brigades (AABI) on the campaign to stop Madrid City Council from building a waste recycling facility on top of a mass grave adjacent to Fuencarral cemetery (pictured above). The site is thought to contain the remains of some 451 International Brigaders, including several Britons.

We believe it is very important to keep you up-to-date on the activity that our association is deploying in relation to this issue. 

As we suppose you know from the great repercussion it has had in the press and the information we have been updating you with, a few months ago we determined the possibility of confirming the burial place of the 451 brigadistas originally buried in the cemetery of Fuencarral and whose graves were desecrated by the fascists after the war, and their bodies hidden in the area behind the enclosure. 

We got the Ministry of Democratic Memory involved, which contracted Arqueoantro to carry out archaeological tests to determine the location of the mass grave. Madrid City Council had been denying the necessary permission to carry out that operation, while requesting a geo-radar study in that area, in order, according to their own words, ‘to confirm that there was nothing’. 

According to the information that has reached us, it seems that the study confirmed that, as we have been stating, ‘there was something’. Since receiving the report in April, the city council, with Mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida at the head, has denied any association or citizen access to the report, even the opposition groups (and paying no attention to the Transparency Law that requires them to make the report public). 

The excuses have included ‘the official in charge of these documents is not here’, as if they themselves were not in charge of the report.

Last week the council delegate of urban planning, Francisco de Borja Carabante, stated in plenary session that the conclusions drawn by some municipal technicians based on the data received from the geo-radar company ruled out the existence of earthworks in the area. 

The same was repeated by the mayor the following day. However, both the original report and the conclusions of these technicians have still not been made public or available to anyone except, apparently, to a journalist from El Mundo, who published some paragraphs that he says are original because he had access to the conclusions of the city council. 

Of course, the possibility of carrying out tests by the ministry, a much more effective and decisive technique, continues to be vetoed.

Given these facts and this repeated lack of transparency, we are forced to turn to the Prosecutor's Office of Democratic Memory to take action on what we consider a crime against the Law of Democratic Memory committed by the mayor of Madrid, the council delegate of urban planning and three other officials for concealment of data, obstructionism and prevarication. In the following link you can find information about the complaint and its terms.

This is a translation of our statement on thew matter:

The Association of Friends of the International Brigades (AABI) has denounced Mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida, Council Delegate of Urban Planning Francisco de Borja Carabante, Council President of the Fuencarral District Board José Antonio Martínez Páramo, General Director of Cleaning Víctor Sarabía and Deputy Director of Cleaning Olivia Lombraña for an alleged crime of lying in order to conceal information about the existence of a mass grave of International Brigaders and for preventing the Ministry of initiating the proper testings in the field, as required by the Law of Democratic Memory.

AABI denounces the municipal council team for hiding the report prepared by the company Gama Geofísica because the results are contrary to its interest in developing a waste project in the district of Montecarmelo.

AABI argues that the five defendants are acting with ‘lack of transparency by hiding for more than 50 days’ the report of the company Gama Geofísica that was delivered on 26 April 2024 to the city council; Gama Geofísica had conducted tests with geo-radar and tomography during that same month ‘exclusively in the plot 26.2b of the Partial Plan of Montecarmelo’.

The report of Gama Geofísica concludes that there are indications detected by the geo-radar that determine a ‘high compatibility’ with the existence in that plot of a mass grave, which may contain the remains of the 451 brigadistas, and recommends archaeological testings.

For more background on this story, see these earlier reports on the IBMT website:

A Spanish newspaper is suggesting that the presence of a mass grave in Madrid containing the remains of 451 International Brigaders, including several Britons, has been confirmed.

However, the Madrid authorities are being accused of sitting on the report because of its inconvenient findings.

The site is next to Fuencarral cemetery, where the Madrid City Council, which is governed by the right-wing PP party, wants to build a waste facility.

A campaign led by Spain’s AABI friends of the International Brigades, which included a letter of protest from the IBMT, forced the council earlier this year to freeze its plans while a survey of the plot was undertaken.

The bodies of the Brigaders, which had previously been properly buried in the cemetery, were dumped outside its perimeter walls following Franco’s victory in the Spanish Civil War.

The El País daily reported on 28 May: ‘The possibility of the appearance of the largest mass grave found in Madrid after the civil war appears imminent in view of the report prepared by a Madrid company and delivered to the city council.’

It went on: ‘The results obtained in the geo-radar study are “highly compatible” with the probability that a mass grave exists, this newspaper has learned. The inspection was carried out on a 10,000 square metre plot where the city council plans the construction of a mega waste facility.’

Patricia Ure of the AABI demanded to know why the survey report was not being made public. 

‘Could it be that there are well-founded suspicions that the mass grave of the Brigade members exhumed and thrown into it is located there?’ she asked. ‘We think that in a short time there will be news because the city council will not be able to continue hiding the report.’

Among those who were buried at Fuencarral are the poet Julian Bell, Samuel Walsh, a cook from Newcastle, Arnold Jeans, a commercial traveller from Lancashire, and Edward Burke, from Croydon, a journalist and Unity Theatre actor.

Pictured above: a memorial plaque in Fuencarral cemetery to the British, American and Canadian battalions of the 15th International Brigade.

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