Spain maintains that Ghali’s admission to a hospital in the country does not affect the “privileged partnership” between Rabat and Madrid.
Rabat – Morocco’s intelligence services detected Polisario leader Brahim Ghali’s presence in Spain, Spanish news outlet El Pais reported.
On Thursday, April 22, Jeune Afrique unveiled exclusive information on the hospitalization of Brahim Ghali in Spain under a fake identity and an Algerian passport.
Subsequent reports revealed that “highest level” Algerian and Spanish authorities cooperated to arrange for Ghali’s hospitalization in the European country.
The information made international headlines, sparking frustration among NGOs and human rights activists.
El Pais reported that Morocco’s intelligence services were able to access information that Polisario, Spain, and Algeria attempted to hide with “utmost secrecy.”
Algeria has remained silent since the news broke and made headlines, while Polisario has unconvincingly denied Ghali’s presence in Spain and cited COVID-19 to hide its leader’s continued absence in recent weeks.
Not until it was impossible to continue covering up Ghali’s presence in Spain did Madrid decide to announce that it had indeed welcomed the separatist leader “for strictly humanitarian reasons.”
In a feeble attempt to appease Moroccan authorities, who have strongly condemned Spain’s “incomprehensible” and “deplorable” attitude, the Spanish government argued that the hospitalization of the Polisario leader does not “prevent, or distribute the relationship with Morocco at all.”
At a press conference on Friday last week, Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Arancha Gonzalez Laya extolled the depth of the political and strategic bonds between Madrid and Rabat. She described Morocco as a “privileged partner” in a wide range of fields, including trade, migration, and the fight against climate change.
Unsurprisingly, though, Spain’s frail reassurances have not been well received in Morocco. El Pais cited sources from the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affair, who said that Spain’s decision to “secretly” welcome Ghali is not typical from a “friendly” country” with which Rabat has a “privileged cooperation.”
A few days after news broke of Ghali’s medical trip to Spain, on April 25, Morocco released its first official statement to lambast Spain’s decision.
The Moroccan ministry of foreign affairs summoned the Spanish ambassador in Rabat to clarify Spain’s decision to host Ghali, who is the subject of a legal procedure for multiple war crimes and other human rights violations, including genocide, torture, kidnapping, and forced disappearances.
Morocco deplored the decision, saying that such action from a supposedly traditional and special ally is against the “spirit of partnership and good neighborliness and which concerns a fundamental issue for the Moroccan people and its vital forces.”
But the Moroccan government was not the only one to express concerns about Spain’s lack of action against Ghali’s case.
The situation sparked frustration among several international NGOs, with many calling on Spain to immediately arrest the Polisario leader.
On Monday, representatives of Moroccan associations in the Andalusian region called on Spain to arrest the Polisario leader.
They organized a sit-in in front of the headquarters of the government delegation in Andalusia, expressing their disapproval of Spain’s decision to welcome Ghali and arrange for his hospitalization under illegal conditions.
Nadia Saffeddine, one of the sit-in’s participants, told Moroccan state media that Spain’s attitude is “incomprehensible and does not serve relations between the two countries.”
Sahrawi woman Khadijatou Mahmoud also shared a video with Moroccan news outlet Le360, calling on Spain to arrest Ghali, whom she accused of sexual assault and rape.
Mahmoud said Ghali raped her in the separatists’ secretariat in Rabouni, Algeria in 2010.
“I am still waiting for justice to be served. I do not understand how they let him return, but, as a victim, I want him to be arrested and imprisoned,” said the Sahrawi woman.