Polisario Front leader to attend Spain court summons remotely

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Ghali reacts during an extraordinary congress at the Sahrawi refugee camp of Dakhla

MADRID (Reuters) -Brahim Ghali, the leader of Western Sahara's independence movement Polisario Front, whose presence in Spain has angered Morocco, will attend a high court hearing remotely next Tuesday from hospital, his lawyer's office said on Thursday.

Ghali is represented in Spain by legal firm Olle Sese Abogados, whose representative, who did not want to be named, told Reuters about Ghali's court date.

Ghali, who has been hospitalised with COVID-19 in Logrono in the Rioja region, was served a June 1 summons for a preliminary hearing in a war crimes case against him filed by Saharaui dissidents, according to documents seen by Reuters last week.

The high court said he could attend the hearing remotely from hospital through a video conference if he has not fully recovered.

Western Sahara is a disputed territory the size of Oregon, mostly held by Morocco since it passed from Spanish control in the mid-1970s.

The Algeria-backed Polisario Front has been fighting for independence since then.

Ghali and other leaders of the group are accused by human rights groups and Western Sahara individuals of crimes including genocide, murder, terrorism and torture, the court document said.

Jalil Mohamed, a spokesman for Polisario, said Ghali and another Western Sahara leader involved in the case deny any wrongdoing and said the accusations were politically motivated and prompted by Morocco. Ghali arrived from Algeria on an Algerian diplomatic passport, according to the spokesman.

Morocco recently loosened border security to let thousands of would-be migrants cross into Spain's north African enclave of Ceuta. Moroccan officials described the move as retaliation for Ghali being admitted to a Spanish hospital.

Spain has said it agreed to allow Ghali's hospitalisation in Logrono, northern Spain, as a "humanitarian gesture".

Morocco had in recent years worked with Spain, its biggest trading partner, to crack down on migrant flows into Ceuta and another Spanish enclave, Melilla, as well as across the Strait of Gibraltar.

(Reporting by Inti Landauro; editing by Andrei Khalip and Bernadette Baum)

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