The prosecution in the Ghali case asks González Laya to testify as an investigator

Camillo Villarino, the former minister's deputy, has declared that he acted on Laya's orders
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AP/PETROS KARADJIAS  -   Former Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya during a press conference on 30 September 2020.

Camilo Villarino, former director of Arancha González Laya's cabinet, has testified as a defendant in the investigation into the entry into Spain of Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front. Villarino has appeared before the magistrate Rafael Lasala, head of the Court of Instruction number 7 of Zaragoza.

The former second-in-command of the ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs stated that he acted on Laya's orders, although "the decision was taken higher up". Villarino stressed that throughout the operation he was asked to maintain a high level of discretion, as there were third countries that could understand the entry of the Polisario leader as an attack on their interests.

The lawyer Antonio Urdiales, who is prosecuting the case of Ghali, indicated to the media that Villarino has declared "that he received a call from González Laya". For this reason, the lawyer will ask the judge for the ex-minister to testify in the preliminary investigation phase as a defendant.

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PHOTO/ FOREIGN MINISTRY - Camilo Villarino, during his inauguration as director of the cabinet of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in July 2017, with Alfonso Dastis as Foreign Minister.

The Ministry of Defence has also been involved in the Ghali operation through the Air Force General Staff General, Javier Fernández Sánchez. However, Fernández Sánchez testified as a witness that Villarino "did not tell him exactly who the passenger was" on the international flight that landed at the Zaragoza Air Base on 18 April.

According to him, he was informed that an Algerian plane carrying diplomatic personnel was going to land, without any further details. Urdiales pointed out that the Ministry of Defence "is not obliged" to demand that passengers identify themselves, "if the Foreign Ministry states that they have a diplomatic passport".

AFP/ RYAD KRAMDI - Brahim Ghali, Secretary General of the Polisario Front

On the other hand, the judge has demanded "the full content" of the conversations via WhatsApp between Foreign Affairs and Defence in which the Saharawi was allowed to enter without requesting any kind of documentation. "In Foreign Affairs we will not quote Defence", "I confirm that everything has been discreet", were some of the messages leaked between Villarino and Fernández Sánchez on the day of Ghali's arrival.

Urdiales has demanded that the circumstances of Ghali's entry be clarified, to see whether or not there was a "cover-up on the part of the national government". The Ghali case has provoked a serious diplomatic crisis with Morocco. "They should explain to us how he got in", the lawyer asked. He warned that if he does not get an explanation, he will ask for a trial.

He also recalled that Ghali has used "different identities". In 1999 he entered the country "with a false passport" and then in 2003 "his residence was extended with another false passport". On this occasion, the Polisario leader was admitted to Logroño Hospital under the false name of Mohammed Benbatouche.

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AP/ALVARO BARRIENTOS - File photo the plane carrying Polisario Front leader Brahim Gali takes off at Pamplona airport in Pamplona, northern Spain, Wednesday, June 2, 2021.

Ghali left Spain on 2 June from Pamplona airport after testifying before Judge Santiago Pedraz in relation to charges of torture, illegal detention and genocide. Like his entry into the country, Ghali also failed to show his passport when he left. The National Police justified the fact that he was allowed to take off without identifying himself on the basis of the Aliens Regulation, which establishes that "departures may take place, with defective documentation or even without it, if there is no prohibition or impediment in the opinion of the police control services".