A Madrid court has let off a former doctor over stealing newborn babies from their mothers and supplying them to infertile couples.
The court found gynaecologist Eduardo Vela, 85, had committed the crimes but charges were dropped because too much time had elapsed.
He is the first person to go on trial for illegal adoptions that took place during and after the fascist dictatorship of General Franco.
Thousands more cases are suspected.
The Vela case focused on Inés Madrigal, allegedly abducted in 1969.
After Franco’s triumph in Spain’s 1936-1939 civil war, many children were removed from families identified by the fascist regime as Republicans and given to families considered more deserving.
The most serious abduction charge was brought against Vela by Ms Madrigal in April 2012. But because she failed to bring the case for 25 years after she first became an adult – in 1987 – the case fell foul of the statute of limitations, which is 10 years.
She was in court for the verdict, but Vela was absent.
Ms Madrigal came out saying: “I’m happy because it’s been shown that I was stolen by him.”
She and her lawyer say she will appeal to the Supreme Court so the doctor’s crimes do not remain unpunished.
Prosecutors had sought an 11-year jail term for Vela.
The Madrid provincial court found he had committed three crimes – abduction, fraud over pregnancy and forgery of documents.
Spain’s stolen babies scandal went on for decades – from Franco’s early years in power to the 1990s.
It took a long time to surface because the Catholic Church and medical profession are highly respected, and Spanish law did not require the biological mother’s name on the birth certificate.
The scandal is closely linked to the Church, which under Franco assumed a prominent role in Spain’s social services including hospitals, schools and children’s homes.
Nuns and priests compiled waiting lists of would-be adoptive parents, while doctors were said to have lied to mothers about the fate of their children.
An amnesty law, aimed at smoothing the transition to democracy, contributed to the cover-up, as courts and politicians refused to investigate baby-trafficking.