Judge Santiago Pedraz interrogates a possible witness of alleged torture by the Polisario Front and Brahim Ghali

The Audiencia Nacional investigates two complaints against the leader of the Polisario Front for alleged crimes of genocide and terrorism presented by ASADEDH and an alleged victim of the Polisario Front
In this 27 February 2021 file photo, Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali delivers a speech at a refugee camp near Tindouf, southern Algeria.

AP/ARCHIVE  -   In this 27 February 2021 file photo, Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali delivers a speech at a refugee camp near Tindouf, southern Algeria

A man named Ahmed Tarouzi, who allegedly witnessed alleged torture by the Polisario Front and its leader Brahim Ghali in the Tindouf camps in Algeria, testified this Tuesday before the judge of the Audiencia Nacional Santiago Pedraz.

The judge of the Central Court of Instruction Number 5 considered it appropriate to take Tarouzi's statement as he appears in the complaint filed by the Sahrawi Association for the Defence of Human Rights (ASADEDH) against Brahim Ghali, although at the same time he refused to question the other two proposed witnesses, following the criteria of the Public Prosecutor's Office, as reported by the agency Europa Press and the media outlet 20 Minutos.

ASADEHD requested the testimony of these three persons because they themselves were allegedly "kidnapped" for years by the Polisario Front, being witnesses on the front line of the "extermination" denounced in the lawsuit brought against Ghali, 23 other Polisario security officers and four members of the Algerian intelligence services. 

Unas personas sostienen pancartas mientras protestan contra Brahim Ghali, frente a la Audiencia Nacional en Madrid, España, el 1 de junio de 2021
REUTERS/SERGIO PEREZ - People hold placards as they protest against Brahim Ghali, outside the National Court in Madrid, Spain, June 1, 2021.

On the other hand, the testimony of another witness proposed by the other plaintiff against Ghali, Fadel Breica, alleged victim of abuses by the Polisario Front in Tindouf, was suspended due to problems in obtaining a visa to enter Spain, according to legal sources consulted, as reported by Europa Press and 20 Minutos.

The judicial proceedings against Brahim Ghali were resumed in the Audiencia Nacional after the Polisario leader's presence in Spain for treatment in a hospital in Logroño last April due to serious respiratory problems became known. This situation was the trigger for the recent diplomatic crisis between Spain and Morocco, as the Alawi kingdom considered that it had not been informed nor had it received the necessary cooperation from a country considered an ally and partner such as Spain. The Spanish government stated that Ghali had been allowed to enter Spanish territory for humanitarian reasons, although the explanations did not convince the North African country. 

After learning of Ghali's presence in Spain and the protests expressed by the Moroccan Foreign Ministry, there were episodes that increased the political crisis, such as the entry of thousands of immigrants illegally at the Ceuta border and Spain's exclusion from Operation Crossing the Strait, which allows Moroccan citizens to return to Spain for the summer holidays.

Protesta contra Brahim Ghali, frente a la Audiencia Nacional en Madrid, España, 1 de junio de 2021
REUTERS/SERGIO PEREZ - Protest against Brahim Ghali in front of the National Court in Madrid, Spain, June 1, 2021.

The Audiencia Nacional, after learning of Ghali's entry into Spain, summoned him to testify telematically on 1 June to deal with complaints filed by ASADEDH and Fadel Breica for the alleged crimes described above, but the Polisario Front leader was released without precautionary measures, so he was able to travel to Algeria for hospital treatment there, in a country like Algeria, which is a historic ally of the Polisario Front against Morocco.

Subsequently, a request was also made for more information and a judicial investigation into how Brahim Ghali was allowed to enter Spain and with what documentation. A question on which clarification has also been requested.

Protesta contra Brahim Ghali, frente a la Audiencia Nacional en Madrid, España, el 1 de junio de 2021
REUTERS/SERGIO PEREZ - Protest against Brahim Ghali in front of the National Court in Madrid, Spain, June 1, 2021.

Underlying this diplomatic crisis between Morocco and Spain was the issue of Western Sahara. The Moroccan kingdom has felt that the Spanish nation has not given the necessary support on the Saharawi issue. Meanwhile, Morocco has received much international support for its proposal for a solution to the Western Sahara issue, based on broad Sahrawi autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty. This option received a great boost with the support of Donald Trump's past US administration and Joe Biden's current US government, and also with the announcement of the opening of consulates of relevant countries such as the US and the United Arab Emirates in strategic enclaves such as Dakhla and Layoun. In contrast to this position, the Polisario Front's proposal for a referendum on Sahrawi independence has little international support, including the historical support of Algeria, Morocco's rival on various issues in North Africa.

Precisely in view of this scenario, Spain's former foreign minister, Arancha González Laya, was recently replaced by the appointment of José Manuel Albares as the new head of Spanish diplomacy with the clear intention of improving ties between Spain and Morocco, neighbouring countries and considered strategic partners on both shores of the Mediterranean. The former Spanish ambassador to Paris may be well regarded by the Alaouite kingdom as a way of returning to the path of good and stable relations between the two countries.