Tribute For José María Galante, Dogged Pursuer of Justice for Franco’s Victims, Dies at 71

This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

José María Galante relentlessly gathered evidence of torture and other abuses committed during the Franco dictatorship in Spain. He did so for decades, despite an amnesty law passed two years after Franco’s death in 1975 that was designed to help smooth Spain’s return to democracy.

Mr. Galante died on March 29 in a Madrid hospital. He was 71. His partner, Justa Montero, said the cause was Covid-19.

Mr. Galante, known as Chato, fought particularly hard to bring to trial former members of Franco’s police, including an inspector, Antonio González Pacheco, whom he accused of torturing him and many others.

In an interview with The New York Times in 2014, Mr. Galante recalled how he had found that his torturer was living near him in central Madrid and explained why he was determined to have the former inspector judged. “I agree with the idea of reconciliation,” Mr. Galante said. “But you just can’t turn the page. You have to read that page before you turn it.”

He continued his crusade even after Spain’s national court in 2014 rejected an extradition request for the former police inspector, filed by a judge in Argentina who was investigating the case.

“We will bring these torturers before judges,” Mr. Galante said last year during a presentation of a documentary about victims of Franco in which he participated. “We will end up winning, and they know it.”

Mr. González Pacheco died in May in a Madrid hospital without having stood trial or losing his police decorations, despite a promise made recently by Spain’s left-wing government to remove them.

Mr. Galante was born on April 27, 1948, in Madrid. He was one of 12 children. His mother was a homemaker, and his father was a military engineer who rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. While at university, where he studied economics and telecommunications, Mr. Galante joined an underground movement called the Popular Liberation Front, which aimed to overthrow Franco’s regime.

He was arrested for the first time in 1967 and spent almost five years in and out of prison. During the final years of the regime, he was made to do his compulsory military service in a special battalion formed to punish government opponents.

After Franco’s death in 1975, Mr. Galante ran unsuccessfully in local elections for the Communist Revolutionary League, a Trotskyist party.

Mr. Galante joined the unsuccessful campaigns to bar Spain from hosting U.S. military bases and from joining NATO (Spain became a member in 1982). He also turned to environmental activism, helping found a nongovernmental organization in 1998 called Ecologists in Action. One of his campaigns was to hold the authorities responsible for mishandling the oil spill caused by the sinking of a tanker off the coast of Spain in 2002.

Along with Ms. Montero, a prominent figure in the feminist movement in Spain, his survivors include seven siblings.

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