A witness testifies before the judge that Brahim Ghali was present where the alleged torture by the Polisario Front took place

Ahmed Tarouzi assured in his statement before judge Santiago Pedraz that the Polisario leader gave the orders, although he could not certify that he personally carried out the torture
Brahim Ghali, Secretary General of the Polisario Front

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

The activist Ahmed Tarouzi appeared this Tuesday in the Audiencia Nacional to testify before the judge Santiago Pedraz in the case of the alleged torture practiced by the Polisario Front in the Saharawi refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria, and indicated that he suffered them in first person and that, in addition, the Polisario leader Brahim Ghali was present on occasion in the premises where these punishments were carried out, giving orders. 

According to judicial sources based on information from the media such as the newspaper La Razón or the agency Europa Press, Tarouzi indicated that he had been a victim of torture in the Algerian town of Tindouf, carried out by the Polisario Front, under the orders of Ghali. Although the witness stated that he did not witness the fact that the Polisario leader under investigation carried out the torture in person.

Ahmed Tarouzi claimed to have been kidnapped and tortured by the Polisario Front for eleven years and that these physical punishments consisted of "pulling out the teeth and molars" of the prisoners. According to judicial sources, he identified his torturers, with the presence of Ghali, although the Polisario Front leader did not torture, but gave the orders, as published by La Razón and Europa Press. 

Questioned about who was torturing, Tarouzi replied that he witnessed the actions of several members of the Polisario Front and three Algerian generals, according to judicial sources consulted by Europa Press.

Brahim Ghali, secretario general del Frente Polisario
PHOTO/AP - Brahim Ghali, Polisario Front Secretary General

The process is still ongoing in the Audiencia Nacional, in the court of Santiago Pedraz, where Brahim Ghali is being investigated for alleged crimes of torture, illegal detention and genocide following the complaints filed by the Sahrawi Association for the Defence of Human Rights (ASADEDH) and the Sahrawi activist Fadel Breica. A second proposed person was also due to appear as a witness for the alleged crimes after sharing a prison with Breica, but has not yet been able to testify due to visa problems. 

ASADEDH requested the testimony of up to three people because they themselves had allegedly been "kidnapped" for years by the Polisario Front, being witnesses on the front line of the "extermination" and torture denounced in the complaint filed against Ghali, 23 other Polisario security officers and four members of the Algerian intelligence services.

For his part, Ghali's defence asked where the torture allegedly took place, to which Tarouzi replied that it was in a shed. The lawyer then questioned whether there was natural light or light bulbs and spotlights that blinded him. Tarouzi assured that, although the light was in her face, she could see and hear them, as published by the Europa Press agency. 

The judicial procedure continues after the Audiencia Nacional decided to summon Brahim Ghali to testify after learning of his presence in Spain, where he entered last April to be treated in a hospital in Logroño due to serious respiratory problems. Morocco requested explanations from Spain for the lack of precise information and cooperation regarding the Polisario leader's presence in Spanish territory, and the government of Pedro Sánchez limited itself to pointing out that Ghali had been allowed to enter for humanitarian reasons. The response did not satisfy the Alawi kingdom, and the Moroccan Foreign Ministry reprimanded it, considering that it had received no cooperation from a country considered a neighbour and ally.

Campamento de refugiados de Boudjdour en Tinduf, al sur de Argelia
REUTERS/ZOHRA BENSEMRA - Boudjdour Refugee Camp in Tindouf, southern Algeria

This situation was the trigger for a diplomatic crisis between the two nations that continued with other episodes such as the entry of thousands of immigrants illegally through the Ceuta border and Spain's exclusion from Operation Crossing the Strait, which allows Moroccan citizens to return to their country in the middle of the summer. 

When Ghali's situation in Spain became known, the National Court summoned him to testify telematically on 1 June, although in the end no precautionary measures were applied and he was able to leave Spanish territory to travel to Algeria, where he was hospitalised for further medical treatment. In Algeria, an ally of the Polisario Front, he was even visited by the President of the North African country, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, and the head of the army, Said Chengriha.

Subsequently, a judicial request was also made to ask for more information and to investigate how Brahim Ghali was allowed to enter Spain and with what documentation. An issue on which clarification has also been requested.

Underlying this political clash between Morocco and Spain is the issue of Western Sahara. The Alawi kingdom lacks clear Spanish support for its proposal to resolve the Sahrawi conflict, based on broad autonomy for the region under Moroccan sovereignty. This option has received significant support on the international stage, especially as a result of the support given by Donald Trump's past US administration and Joe Biden's current government. Important announcements were also made, such as the opening of Consulates of countries as important as the United States and the United Arab Emirates in strategic enclaves such as Dakhla and Layoun, all of which has served as a boost for the Kingdom's strategy.

In contrast, the Polisario Front's proposal for a referendum on Sahrawi independence does not enjoy much international support, particularly from Algeria, Morocco's North African rival on a number of issues.

Now comes a new phase in which diplomatic relations between Spain and Morocco are set to improve with the arrival of the new Spanish foreign minister, José Manuel Albares. Albares has been identified as a diplomat who can carry out this task in order to rebuild political ties between the two Mediterranean neighbours.