Western Sahara independence leader Brahim Ghali back in Algeria

Brahim Ghali returns to Algeria after stay in Spanish hospital that caused Spain-Morocco diplomatic row.

Brahim Ghali was hospitalised in Spain with COVID-19 [File: Ryad Kramdi/AFP]

The leader of the Western Sahara independence movement, Brahim Ghali, has returned to Algeria after spending more than a month in Spain.

The Polisario Front chief’s stay at a Spanish hospital triggered a diplomatic row between Spain and Morocco.

“He arrived safe and sound,” said Jalil Mohamed, the Polisario Front’s spokesman in Spain.

Ghali arrived in Algiers at about 3am (0200 GMT), where he will continue his recovery from a severe case of COVID-19, Polisario Front official Abdelkader Taleb Omar told Algeria’s APS news agency.

He added that Ghali’s improving health meant he no longer needed hospitalisation in Spain.

Algerian state television showed President Abdelmadjid Tebboune visiting Ghali in a military hospital, but gave no details of their discussion.

A Hawker Beechcraft 1000 plane carrying Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali left Spain early on Wednesday [Vincent West/Reuters]

Rabat has not yet commented on Ghali’s departure from Spain but had previously said that it would not alone resolve the dispute.

The Algeria-backed Polisario Front is fighting for the independence of Western Sahara, which was a Spanish colony until the mid-1970s and is claimed by Morocco.

Ghali, who was suffering a serious bout of COVID-19, had been admitted to a Spanish hospital in April on humanitarian grounds, the Madrid government said.

He left Spain several hours after appearing remotely in a hearing with the Spanish high court on a war crimes case. Following the hearing, judges did not impose any restrictions on the Polisario leader and allowed him to leave the country.

Spain’s decision to admit Ghali to a hospital in the northern Spanish city of Logrono, on Algerian papers and without informing Rabat, infuriated Morocco.

Moroccan officials suggested that last month’s sudden influx of up to 10,000 migrants and refugees to Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta after Moroccan security forces appeared to loosen border controls was a form of retaliation.

The government of Pedro Sanchez accused Rabat of “blackmail” and “aggression” over the arrivals.

Algerian support for the Polisario Front independence movement is also a source of anger in Morocco.

Source: News Agencies