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Spanish judge questions Polisario leader for the first time on genocide charges

The leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, will be questioned for the first time by a judge of the Audiencia Nacional on Tuesday
PHOTO/AP - Brahim Ghali, secretario general del Frente Polisario

PHOTO/AP  -   Brahim Ghali, secretary general of the Frente Polisario

A month after entering Spain to be hospitalised for COVID-19, the leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, will be questioned for the first time this Tuesday by a judge of the Audiencia Nacional, who is investigating two complaints against him for alleged crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Other magistrates of this court have already tried to question him in 2016 and 2019, as they were aware that the president of the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) was planning to come to Spain, but they never managed to get him to sit before the court as they were unable to locate him.

Judge Santiago Pedraz will try again this Tuesday, when he plans to take his statement via telematic means for two complaints filed against him for alleged torture by members of the Polisario Front against the dissident Sahrawi population in the camps of Tindouf (Algeria).

Ghali, 72, will testify by videoconference from the San Pedro hospital in Logroño, where he was admitted a month ago after entering Spain under a false identity to be hospitalised for COVID-19, provoking an unprecedented crisis with Morocco, which worsened with the massive and irregular entry of between 8,000 and 10,000 people - some 2,000 minors - into Ceuta.

On the judicial level, the entry of Ghali, who is progressing favourably in hospital, led the judge to reopen two cases against him: that of the activist Fadel Mihdi Breica, and that of the Sahrawi Association for the Defence of Human Rights (Asadeh).

PHOTO/AP
PHOTO/AP - Brahim Ghali, secretary general of the Frente Polisario

Breica, a Spanish citizen of Sahrawi origin, filed a complaint against Ghali and other members of the Polisario for alleged torture suffered in the Polisario camps in Tindouf (Algeria) in 2019 by members of the military. He is asking for an investigation into crimes of illegal detention, torture and crimes against humanity.

Ghali is summoned at 10.00 a.m. to respond to this complaint and later he will respond to the second one, filed by ASADEH in 2008 and which was shelved in 2020 due to the lack of response from Algeria to a request made three years earlier.

The complaint, filed for crimes of genocide, murder, terrorism, torture and disappearances, among others, denounces the treatment suffered in Tindouf "by prisoners of war" and by Saharawi citizens, "especially those of Spanish origin, in the hands of the Polisario Front", an organisation accused of "holding thousands of Saharawis against their will (...) with the complicity of the Algerian authorities".

After answering the questions of the parties, the accusations plan to request precautionary measures against Ghali to ensure that he remains before the Spanish justice system, according to legal sources consulted by Efe and as they have done throughout this month, in which they have unsuccessfully requested from the withdrawal of his passport to prison to prevent him from escaping.

In denying one of these requests, the judge stated that there are no "clear indications of participation in the conduct described in ASADEH's complaint".

Ghali initially refused to sign his summons before the judge and claimed that he needed to consult with the Algerian embassy, but he was finally notified and ended up appointing a lawyer, the specialist in International Criminal Law Manuel Ollé.

On 25 May, Saharawi sources confirmed to Efe that Ghali had agreed to testify by telematic means because "he respects Spanish justice and because he wants to dismantle Morocco's strategy of criminalising the leader of the Polisario Front", given that the lawsuit has been "promoted by Rabat to create a conflict between Spain and the Polisario Front".

Legal sources have assured Efe that the declaration will be "safe" and will take place "with all the guarantees".