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Originally published Monday, October 5, 2009 at 8:29 AM

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Spain: Garcia Lorca grave to be opened in weeks

A Spanish Civil War-era grave believed to hold the remains of the acclaimed poet Federico Garcia Lorca will be dug up in two to three weeks, an official said Monday, in the most high-profile step yet in a drive for Spain to address atrocities committed against civilians during that ruinous conflict.

Associated Press Writer

MADRID —

A Spanish Civil War-era grave believed to hold the remains of the acclaimed poet Federico Garcia Lorca will be dug up in two to three weeks, an official said Monday, in the most high-profile step yet in a drive for Spain to address atrocities committed against civilians during that ruinous conflict.

But it is unclear if the remains will actually be identified, because descendants of Garcia Lorca are opposed to the exhumation plan.

Garcia Lorca, Spain's most renowned 20th-century poet, was executed in Granada in southern Spain by militia loyal to Gen. Francisco Franco in the opening days of the 1936-39 war.

He is one of about 114,000 civilians who were killed or went missing during the war between rightist forces led by Franco and an elected leftist government, according to Judge Baltasar Garzon, who has investigated the atrocities. Garcia Lorca's case is one of the most celebrated ones because of his role as a cultural icon.

Francisco Espinola, a spokesman for the Justice Ministry of the Andalusian regional government, said that after years of pressure from historians and groups representing relatives of war victims, a common, unmarked grave alleged to hold Garcia Lorca's body will be exhumed in a matter of weeks.

Relatives of Garcia Lorca are against the idea. They reiterated in court papers released Monday that they would prefer that he and perhaps thousands of others killed and buried in the same area of Granada be left in peace, with the entire area declared a formal resting ground.

The poet should not be singled out for preferential treatment when many other families are also longing for word of what happened to loved ones slain in the war, they said.

The government should not "adopt a partial, individualized solution, which, by praising the memory of some ... condemns others to oblivion," the family wrote.

But the plan will go ahead anyway because descendants or representatives of three other men interred with Garcia Lorca want to give their loved ones a proper burial and that is enough to override the Garcia Lorca family, Espinola said.

"This process is going to continue," he said.

Espinola said the goal is not to identify Garcia Lorca's remains, which may or may not be with the other three bodies in the grave on a hillside outside the town of Alfacar in Granada province, but to identify those other three, he said. "They may be there. They may not. There is no guarantee," Espinola told The Associated Press, referring to the poet's remains.

Without a DNA sample from his relatives, it will be impossible to identify any remains as being from Garcia Lorca. And it is not clear if the family will provide one.

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For the past few weeks, teams with special radar equipment that detects disturbed underground earth have been examining the site where Garcia Lorca is believed to have been buried. Once this is analyzed, the grave will be dug up, Espinola said.

A group called the Association for the Recovery of Historic Memory has been working since the late 1990s to help Spaniards locate the graves of loved ones who went missing during the war, which left an estimated 500,000 dead, including soldiers, civilians and victims of hunger and other hardships when it was all over.

So far, the group has identified about 1,700 people, its president Emilio Silva said Monday.

In late 2007, after years of pressure, the Spanish parliament passed a law that formally condemned the Franco regime, paid symbolic amends to victims and ordered regional governments to help with exhumations.

It is under that law, and a specific protocol for this purpose that was passed last month, that the Andalusian government is digging up the Garcia Lorca site.

Silva criticized the Andalusian regional government, which is run by Spain's ruling Socialist party, saying it has an ample archives on civil war graves but through the years has done very little with it. Now, it is acting with political motivations to boost its image with one high-profile case.

"It has to act on Lorca, but also on the Rodriguez's and Jimenez's," he said, citing common Spanish last names.

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