MADRID (AP) – The leader of a movement seeking independence from Morocco that is at the center of a diplomatic row between Rabat and Madrid left Spain for Algeria on Tuesday evening, said his group.
Brahim Ghali was released from a hospital in northern Spain after more than six weeks of treatment after contracting COVID-19, according to a statement sent to The Associated Press by the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which is based in refugee camps in western Spain. Algeria.
Ghali heads the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and the Polisario Front. Morocco annexed Western Sahara in the 1970s and the Polisario Front has long tried to end Moroccan rule over the region.
Ghali left hours after testifying by videoconference in a Spanish investigation into allegations against him of torture, genocide and other crimes. A Spanish magistrate ruled after Ghali’s testimony that he should remain free while the investigation continues.
Ghali, 71, left Pamplona airport overnight and will continue his recovery in Algeria, the statement said.
Its presence in Spain has infuriated Morocco and triggered a diplomatic crisis between the two countries, which cooperate in the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking and migration to Europe. Amid the dispute, thousands of migrants crossed the border from Morocco to Spain as Morocco apparently relaxed border controls. Moroccan authorities have also publicly asked whether Spain can be trusted.
Ghali checked in at the Spanish hospital under a false identity after arriving in the country by plane last month with an Algerian diplomatic passport and with the consent of the Spanish government, which said he acted on humanitarian grounds.
Rabat withdrew its ambassador to Madrid and said he would not fill the post if Ghali left Spain under the same cloak of secrecy.
There was no immediate reaction Wednesday from Morocco.