Brahim Ghali's summons to court delayed

The judge of the Audiencia Nacional, Santiago Pedraz, has postponed Ghali's summons after asking to identify the leader before questioning him
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AFP/PHIL MAGAKOE  -   Brahim Ghali, secretary general of the Frente Polisario

Reports in various media on the arrival of the Polisario Front leader, Brahim Ghali, in Spain have provoked a wave of reactions of rejection. Ghali, currently reportedly hospitalised in a hospital in Logroño for the last two weeks, has been summoned by the Spanish justice system for alleged crimes of genocide, terrorism, kidnapping and serious human rights violations, as has been reported in different media.

In this regard, the External Action Service (EEAS), in charge of managing the European Union's diplomatic relations and headed by Spanish MEP Josep Borrell, has not issued a statement on his reception, which has outraged Morocco.

Faced with the national and European governmental silence regarding his reception, the Audiencia Nacional has summoned the leader to testify as a defendant for an alleged crime of genocide and torture of the dissident Saharawi refugee population in Tindouf, Algeria. The judicial appointment would have taken place on 5 May, but the judge of the Audiencia Nacional, Santiago Pedraz, would have ordered to confirm that the man hospitalised in Logroño corresponds to the identity of the Polisario Front leader.

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AFP/FADEL SENNA - Arancha González Laya, Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation of the Spanish Government

This judicial response may have led to Brahim Ghali's appearance being postponed until 7 May, as well as that of other influential members of the independence movement.

In a press conference, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Arancha González Laya, stated that, "if Justice understands that Mr Ghali must answer to Justice, Mr Ghali will appear before Justice; it is not going to be the Government that stands in the way of the independent and free functioning of Justice in our country".

Similarly, González Laya appeared together with his Serbian counterpart, Nikola Selakovic, and spoke about Ghali's future once he has been admitted to hospital. In this regard, she explained that when his hospital stay is over, Ghali will "obviously" leave Spain.

Along these lines, the minister stressed that "in Spain, justice is independent" and the government is "exquisitely respectful of the actions of the justice system". Therefore, she added, "justice will do what it has to do and the Government will respect it fully, as it cannot be otherwise in a democratic country".

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Palacio Real de Marruecos vía AP - Spanish President Pedro Sanchez, left, greets Moroccan King Mohammed VI before their lunch at the Royal Palace in Rabat, Morocco, Monday, Nov. 19, 2018

In view of the unease that his reception has provoked both on a diplomatic and political level with Morocco, González Laya recalled that his reception is strictly for "humanitarian reasons". In this sense, Morocco has asked Spain for explanations about his reception, as he has been declared by Morocco to be a terrorist. However, Laya stressed that Morocco "has already received sufficient explanations".

For Morocco, however, these explanations are not enough. On 22 April, the Moroccan foreign minister summoned the Spanish ambassador in Rabat, Ricardo Díez-Horchleitner, to ask the government for explanations about this decision, as it had not consulted him beforehand. Moreover, the Moroccan foreign minister, Nasser Bourita, was not satisfied with the explanations received and in an interview asked the Spanish government whether it would be willing to sacrifice its relations over this issue.

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PHOTO/REUTERS - European Parliament in Brussels

On the other hand, the Minister of Finance, María Jesús Montero, said that Spain has "a magnificent neighbourly relationship" and stressed that both countries "are called upon to collaborate". In this regard, González Laya stressed that the relationship with Morocco is "extraordinary" and that relations between the two countries go beyond neighbourliness, as they are "two privileged partners".