Rabat – Polisario leader Brahim Ghali will be summoned to the Spanish high court following his expected hospital discharge in June. The elderly Ghali is currently receiving medical treatment in the San Pedro Hospital in Logrono, northern Spain.
Ghali is currently on breathing support as he is treated for both COVID-19 and stomach cancer.
According to Spanish outlet La Razon, Ghali is not conscious and is unable to make a statement currently as several groups and individuals have called for his arrest. Moroccan ministers, NGOs, and many victims of the Polisario leader’s reported criminal offenses have all called on Spain to intervene while he is in the Iberian country.
The Canary Association of Victims of Terrorism (ACAVITE) and 13 other associations issued a press release earlier today to call on Spain to “take advantage of” Ghali’s presence on Spanish territory.
Brahim Ghali’s hospital admission in Rioja province made headlines at the end of April. News of Ghali’s visit for medical treatment in Spain became viral when both regional press and Moroccan intelligence confirmed his presence in Spain.
Spain and Morocco work closely on security issues, primarily including the management of the flow of Europe-bound irregular migration and the fight against religious extremism in the Sahel region. News of Ghali’s presence in Spain prompted Moroccan officials to call on their security partner to arrest the man it considers a separatist accused of a variety of crimes.
La Razon reported on April 26 that Ghali’s hospitalization in Spain’s famous wine region was part of a top-level negotiation between Algeria and Spain. Those reports later came into question after news broke that Ghali had used a fake Algerian identity to gain access to the country.
Calls for Ghali’s arrest prompted Spanish foreign affairs officials to issue a statement on May 4. Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya highlighted that the Spanish government would not interfere with any judicial enquiries into the charges facing the aging Polisario leader.
Spain’s stance of non-interference will bring hope to activists and victims of Ghali who see his hospitalization as an opportunity to bring him to court. The Spanish court has so far been unable to summon Ghali. The Polisario chief is under breathing support and there are doubts about his current cognitive state.
The Spanish high court agreed on May 5 that Ghali will be summoned to the National High Court as soon as he receives his medical discharge, which is expected to be on June 1. Spanish authorities have confirmed Brahim Ghali’s identity and will require him to face the Spanish justice system as soon as he completes his rehabilitation.
Charges against Ghali vary from accusations of torture, terrorism, murder, kidnapping and violent attacks on Canary Islandsbased fishermen.
ACAVITE, the Canarian Association of Victims of Terrorism, and 13 other groups are actively demanding Spanish authorities to prevent Ghali from potentially fleeing the European country without standing trial for all the charges he is facing. Invoking the case of Basque separatist leader Inaki de Juana Chaos, who escaped to Venezuela after his hospitalization in Spain, the groups urged Spain’s justice system to closely monitor Ghali’s case.
The groups “urgently requested” that the Spanish justice system investigates Ghali’s “terrorism in Spain,” emphasizing that they represent “victims of the terrorism” of acts “perpetrated by the Polisario Front.”
Warning of Ghali’s “possible escape after he is cured of his presumed illness,” the coalition also called on Spain to avoid “the exoneration and impunity of his bloody terrorist attacks.”
According to the groups, Spain has “irresponsibly facilitated the logistics, transfer, payment, free treatment, and illegal entry into Spain with another identity.” They accuse Spain of caring for Ghali while his victims “still suffer a regrettable situation of abandonment, impoverishment, lack of protection, lack of repair and restitution.”
The hospitalization of Brahim Ghali has highlighted several glaring discrepancies originating from his privileged status within Polisario leadership. Thousands of Sahrawi and foreign refugees live in the Polisario-run Tindouf camps without any freedom of movement in Algeria or access to quality healthcare.
With Ghali’s impoverished followers trapped in the desert camps, he has been free to travel within the country, being able to enjoy all the amenities available to Algeria’s entrenched elite.
Even as Algeria faces several internal crises, it continues to spend its scarce resources on supporting the aging top brass of the Polisario Front, allowing the separatist group’s leadership freedoms most Algerians themselves do not enjoy.
Algerian doctors provided Brahim Ghali with their best care before arranging for his transport to Spain, along with forging fake documents to allow him entry at Zaragoza airport.
Brahim Ghali’s hospitalization highlights the vast disparity between political leaders and regular citizens.
Just as the hospitalization in Germany of Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune caused a stir among Algerians, Tindouf residents will likely see Ghali’s case as another example that its elderly leadership is receiving care and support that no other Tindouf-resident can expect.