Aide: Western Sahara movement leader to testify in Spain


FILE – In this file image made from video on Feb. 27, 2021, Brahim Ghali, leader of the pro-independence Polisario Front speaks to a crowd in Tindouf, Algeria. Ghali, the leader of an Algeria-backed movement fighting for the independence of Western Sahara, was admitted to a hospital in northern Spain last month. His presence under a disguised identity didn’t go unnoticed to the government in Morocco, the country that annexed the northwestern African territory nearly half a century ago. (AP Photo, file)

MADRID (AP) — The leader of the Western Sahara independence movement at the heart of a diplomatic spat between Spain and Morocco will appear before an investigating judge in Spain on June 1, representatives of the Polisario Front in Spain said Wednesday.

Brahim Ghali heads the Polisario Front and the self-declared Sahrawi Democratic Arab Republic based on refugee camps in western Algeria. He has been recovering from COVID-19 in a Spanish hospital, where he checked in with a false identity after arriving in the country with a diplomatic Algerian passport.

His presence has irked Rabat, which annexed the Western Sahara in the 1970s, and has been tied to the sudden arrival of more than 8,000 migrants — many of them unaccompanied children — to a Spanish enclave in northern Africa that shares a border with Morocco.

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.

A Polisario official, who wasn’t authorized to be named in media reports, said that Ghali would abide by a National Court summons to testify on June 1 “in a show of trust of the Polisario Front in Justice.”

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 videoconference from Logrono, the northern city where the 71-year old has been hospitalized.

Ghali had declined to sign a court summons delivered to him in mid-May, according to a police affidavit seen by The Associated Press.

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