Sahara independence head in Spanish court

·2-min read

Spain's High Court has turned down on a prosecution request for Western Sahara independence leader Brahim Ghali to be taken into custody, saying the plaintiffs in a war crimes case have not provided evidence showing his responsibility.

"The prosecution report has not provided elements of evidence supporting the existence of reasons to believe he is responsible of any crime," a court document said on Tuesday.

The Polisario Front leader, who has been hospitalised in Spain for more than a month, appeared remotely before the court in Madrid as part of a case of war crimes against him and other Polisario Front leaders.

They are accused by human rights groups and Western Sahara individuals of genocide, murder, terrorism, torture and disappearances, a court document said.

Ghali rejects any wrongdoing, his lawyer Manuel Olle told reporters in Madrid after the hearing.

"The facts which form the basis of the accusation against him are absolutely and categorically untrue," Olle said.

The lawyer asked for the case to be dropped.

The Polisario Front leader has been treated in a hospital in Logrono, in northern Spain, after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

The move, which the Spanish government says was a humanitarian gesture, has angered Morocco and led Rabat to relax border controls which allowed thousands of migrants to enter Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta.

Ghali's Algeria-backed Polisario Front is fighting for the independence of Western Sahara, which was a Spanish colony until the mid-1970s and is since considered by Morocco as part of its own territory.

Tuesday's proceedings were a preliminary hearing, the first step toward a potential trial.

Mariana Delmas, a lawyer for the prosecution, said she had sought preventative measures against Ghali to stop him leaving the country.

"I asked for them because it is very clear to me, it looks to me that he will flee," she told reporters.

Olle said his client, who travels on an Algerian diplomatic passport, will stay in Spain until the case is resolved. He insisted Ghali is still in poor health.

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