Polisario Front chief leaves Spain after top court rejects pleas for his arrest

The Polisario Front, which is fighting for independence of Western Sahara from Morocco, claimed that allegations of war crimes against chief Brahim Ghali are Morocco’s attempts to discredit the movement

June 02, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Brahim Ghali, President of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic

On Tuesday, June 1, Spain’s high court turned down a request made by some individuals and groups to arrest the leader of the Polisario Front in Western Sahara, Brahim Ghali. The court argued that the plaintiffs have failed to produce enough evidence to prove their allegation against Ghali of committing war crimes. Ghali is the president of the Polisario Front-led Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which has been set up in the liberated part of Western Sahara.

71-year-old Ghali was in Spain on an Algerian passport from April for COVID-19 treatment. He was admitted to a hospital in the northern Spanish city of Logrono.

During his brief appearance from his hospital bed during the hearing, Ghali denied any wrongdoing. After he submitted his testimony to the court, the magistrate in the National Court in Madrid ruled that Ghali should be free while investigations continue.

Meanwhile, the Polisario Front announced on Wednesday that Brahim Ghali had arrived in Algeria from Spain in a private jet as his health had improved.

The Polisario Front is fighting for the independence of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony. After its independence from Spain, Morocco annexed the territory despite objections by the local population and the UN.

Two different complaints were filed against Ghali in the Spanish court by the dissidents of the Polisario Front in 2019 and 2008, accusing him of torture, genocide and other crimes. Ghali’s lawyer called these charges a bid by Morocco to discredit the Polisario Front. He also demanded that the court drop the investigation.  

Ghali’s presence in Spain had created a diplomatic row between Spain and Morocco. Morocco last month opened its borders to let thousands of migrants and refugees enter the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on the northern shore of Africa. Security forces in Spain detained or sent back most of the migrants. Morocco has also withdrawn its ambassador from Spain.   

Morocco’s Ministry of External Affairs, in a statement, accused Spain of collaborating with its enemies by allowing Ghali entry into the country. The Sahrawi’s republic’s foreign affairs ministry, in response, called it an attempt to exploit the opportunity presented by Ghali’s presence in Spain by “Moroccan occupier to to pass its miserable propaganda aimed at putting all kinds of framed accusations against the struggle of the Sahrawi people and its usual fallacies against the Sahrawi cause.”

Following the announcement of Ghali’s leaving, Spain’s transport minister Jose Luis Abalos said in a statement that Ghali entered Spain on humanitarian grounds and now that he is well “he no longer needed the aid” and is leaving the country, Reuters reported.