Polisario Front chief to appear before Spain’s High Court

Ghali had initially declined to sign a summons from Spain’s High Court for the preliminary hearing of a war crimes case against him, according to an official document.
Wednesday 26/05/2021
A file picture shows Brahim Ghali, secretary-general of Polisario Front attending a meeting in Dakhla, southeast of the Algerian city of Tindouf. (REUTERS)
A file picture shows Brahim Ghali, secretary-general of Polisario Front attending a meeting in Dakhla, southeast of the Algerian city of Tindouf. (REUTERS)

MADRID – Brahim Ghali, leader of the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, whose presence in Spain has angered Morocco, will appear before Spain’s High Court on June 1, Spanish radio network Cadena Ser reported on Tuesday.

He  is expected to ask to speak via video conference from Logrono, Spain, where he is currently in hospital, the report said, citing an unnamed legal representative of Ghali.

The same source said to Cadena Ser that Ghali was in a “bad state of health”.

Investigating Judge Santiago Pedraz has rejected petitions by the plaintiffs, including an association of Sahrawi rights aligned with Moroccan interests, to have Ghali arrested. He is also giving Ghali the opportunity to testify via video conference from Logrono, the northern city where the 71-year old has been hospitalized.

Ghali had initially declined to sign a summons from Spain’s High Court for a preliminary hearing in a war crimes case against him, according to an official document.

He was admitted to a hospital in Spain for treatment last month, angering Morocco, which regards Western Sahara as part of Morocco and says Ghali is using fraudulent travel documents provided by Algeria and giving him a false name.

Spain’s foreign minister, Arancha Gonzalez Laya, said on Sunday that when Ghali has recovered from health problems, he should answer the court before he returns to his own country.

The Moroccan government has said that it won’t reinstate its ambassador to Madrid if Ghali leaves Spain with the same secrecy used for his arrival in mid-April and without answering for genocide allegations and other possible crimes that anti-Polisario groups accuse him of.

To allow Ghali “to go home, to get around Spanish law and ignore the victims would be a call for a deterioration (in relations),” Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita warned earlier this week.

According to the Moroccan minister, avoiding “deterioration” requires a “transparent” investigation into the conditions of Ghali’s entry into Spain and the “taking into account the complaints lodged against him” on charges of “torture, human rights violations and enforced disappearance.”

Judicial sources earlier said that a Spanish court has reopened a probe into allegations of torture against Ghali.

The accusations were filed by the Spain-based Sahrawi Association for the Defence of Human Rights, the sources said.

The group alleges that dissident members of the separatist movement were held in camps in Algeria where they underwent torture and in some cases were killed.

Analysts have earlier suggested that Rabat had allowed unprecedented migrant crossings into Ceuta in recent days to pressure Madrid to recognise Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara.

Bourita said the situation was a “test of the strategic partnership” between Spain and Morocco in the fight against clandestine migration.

Bourita revealed that Spain did not consult the European Union before making a decision to host Ghali under a false identity.

“Madrid has created a crisis and wants Europe to assume it,” he said.

“For me, it is, above all, a migration crisis born of a political crisis between two partners. A crisis for which Spain is responsible,” the Moroccan top diplomat explained.