Barcelona members vote to withdraw medals awarded Franco

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona's soccer club members have voted overwhelmingly to withdraw medals awarded to Francisco Franco, finally ending the much-maligned distinctions the Catalan club granted to Spain's dictator.

The club's board proposed to withdraw the medals at a board meeting in February and the move was approved by 671 votes at the annual general assembly on Sunday, with two voting against and seven abstaining.

Barca, whose president, Josep Sunyol, was killed during the 1936-1939 Spanish civil war unleashed by Franco in which about 500,000 people died, gave medals to the dictator in 1951, 1971 and 1974.

Current President Josep Maria Bartomeu said ahead of the vote that the club had wanted to withdraw the medals for some time but lacked the appropriate documentation to do so.

"It's true that this is being done late, but better late than never," he said.

"This is also a tribute to our fathers and grandfathers who suffered during the dictatorship."

Franco ruled from the end of the civil war until he died in 1975.

Last month, Spain’s supreme court gave the government the go-ahead to exhume the remains of the dictator and move them from the state mausoleum in which he was buried in 1975.

(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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