González Laya reiterates that Ghali entered Spain "in accordance with the law"

The ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs has appeared before the Court of Instruction Number 7 of Zaragoza for the Ghali case, although she has not responded to the popular accusations
La exministra de Asuntos Exteriores de España Arancha González Laya

PHOTO/AP  -   Former Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister Arancha González Laya

Arancha González Laya, former Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, has testified as a defendant in the Ghali case in the Juzgado de Instrucción Number 7 of Zaragoza. Previously, González Laya had asked to appear by video call, although the judge finally denied her request.

After appearing before the magistrate, the former minister told the media that she hoped that the judicial process would be carried out with "transparency". She also insisted that everything was carried out "in accordance with the law". "I hope the judge comes to the same conclusion," she added.

PHOTO/REUTERS - Brahim Ghali, Secretary General of the Polisario Front

González Laya has assured that she will provide "all the explanations that can help" the investigator in the investigation of the facts. However, as reported by the newspaper La Razón, legal sources indicate that the former minister has refused to answer the popular accusations and has only done so before the investigator, the Public Prosecutor's Office and the State Attorney. In order not to answer, González Laya has shielded herself "in the secret nature of the decisions taken last April", according to La Razón.

Last September, Antonio Urdiales, who is the public prosecutor in the Ghali case, asked the judge that the ex-minister should testify in the preliminary investigation phase as a defendant. Urdiales took this decision after Camilo Villarino, ex-director of González Laya's cabinet, declared before the magistrate Rafel Lasala that he acted on Laya's orders. However, Villarino also specified that "the decision was taken higher up".

Brahim Ghali landed at Zaragoza Air Base on 18 April under a false identity. He was subsequently admitted to Logroño Hospital to be treated for coronavirus. The Polisario leader used the name Mohammed Benbatouche. Urdiales recalled that it was not the first time that Ghali had entered the country with a false ID. In 1999 he arrived in Spain with a "false passport" and a few years later, in 2003, "his residence was extended with another false passport".

The Saharawi left Spain on 2 June from Pamplona airport after testifying before judge Santiago Pedraz in relation to charges of torture, illegal detention and genocide. Recently, the Audiencia Nacional has reactivated the case against Ghali for genocide, after Pedraz opted to close the investigation on 29 July.

camilo villarino
PHOTO/ MINISTERIO DE EXTERIORES - Camilo Villarino, during his inauguration as director of the Foreign Affairs Minister's Office, in July 2017, with Alfonso Dastis as Foreign Minister.

Despite Ghali's short stay in Spain, his arrival provoked a serious diplomatic crisis between Rabat and Madrid. However, since the replacement of González Laya by José Manuel Albares, relations between the two countries have improved considerably.