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Rabat – The Spanish judiciary has summoned the leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, who is undergoing medical treatment in the San Pedro Hospital in La Rioja in Spain.
Citing official sources, Spanish outlet La Razon reported earlier today that the Polisario leader is expected to stand before judges at the 5th Central Court of Instruction on Wednesday in Madrid.
Two other senior members of the Polisario Front, Sidahmed Battal and Bachir Mustapha Sayed, have also been summoned to stand trial on the same day as Ghali.
The decision to summon Ghali comes ten days after Moroccan intelligence detected Polisario’s leader’s presence in a Spanish hospital. Since Ghali’s admission to the hospital, Spain has faced criticism and backlash for cooperating with Algeria to arrange for Ghali’s trip and hospitalization under a fake identity.
Ghali was transferred to the Spanish hospital in an Algerian medical plane after his health condition deteriorated. But the Polisario leader unable to legally travel to Spain since he is subject to a litany of legal complaints, including charges of rape, torture, kidnapping, and forced dissappearances.
One of his accusers is Khadijatou Mahmoud, a young Saharawi who says the leader of Polisario’s self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) raped her in 2010, at the headquarters of the SADR’s “embassy” in Algiers.
On April 13, Spanish Judge Santiago Pedraz issued an interrogation order against Ghali following a complaint filed by El Fadel Breika, a Spanish citizen and former Polisario member-turned dissident. Breika accuses Ghali of kidnapping and torture.
In addition to legal complaints from individual Sahrawis and Spaniards, the Polisario leader is also on the radar of a number of advocacy and human rights groups. The Saharawi Association for the Defense of Human Rights (Asadeh) and the Canarian Association of Victims of Terrorism (Acavite) have, for instance, accused the separatist leader of serious violations of human rights.
In 2008 and 2016, a judge at the Spanish National Court issued summoning orders against Ghali. But the Polisario chief ignored both orders.
Setback in Moroccan-Spanish relations
Spain’s hosting of an avowed enemy of Morocco, a country Spanish officials often describe as a “special” or “priviledged” ally, sparked acrimony in Moroccan political circles. In its first official reaction to Spain’s welcoming of Ghali, the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Madrid’s “incomprehensible and surprising” attitude risked upending Morocco-Spain relations.
The Moroccan ministry also summoned the Spanish ambassador to Morocco for “clarification.” This suggested that Rabat expects more than the “humanitarian reasons” argument Spain initially gave as news emerged of Ghali’s hospitalization at a Spanish hospital.
Most recently, Morocco’s Minister of Foreing Affairs, Nasser Bourita, told Spanish outlet EFE that Spain’s hosting casts serious doubts on Madrid’s commitment to its relationship with Rabat.
Bourita likened Spain’s welcoming of the Polisario leader to betraying a close ally and asked whether the European country is ready to “sacrifice its bilateral relationship with [Morocco] because of Brahim Ghali.”
He stressed that Morocco expects Spain to clearly say where it stands on questions of utmost importance for Morocco.“One does not maneuver behind the back of one’s partners on a fundamental issue,” he declared.