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Spain court summons Polisario Front leader in 'war crimes' case

Brahim Ghali, newly elected Polisario secretary general and president of the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arabic Democratic Republic, delivers a speech during the PF's extraordinary congress on July 9, 2016 [FAROUK BATICHE/AFP via Getty Images]
Brahim Ghali Polisario secretary general and president of the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arabic Democratic Republic, delivers a speech during the PF's extraordinary congress on July 9, 2016 [FAROUK BATICHE/AFP via Getty Images]

Spain's high court has served Western Sahara independence leader Brahim Ghali with a 1 June summons for a preliminary hearing in a war crimes case against him, a court document seen by Reuters yesterday showed.

The summons is the first step toward a potential trial of the Polisario Front leader, whose admittance to a Spanish hospital for treatment last month has angered Morocco.

Ghali declined to sign the summons, the document added.

A source close to the judicial investigation said he might fail to attend as he might be holding an Algerian diplomatic passport, potentially giving him immunity.

News of the summons comes a day after thousands of migrants flocked from Morocco into Spain's north African enclave of Ceuta.

Late on Tuesday, Morocco's Minister of State for Human Rights, El Mustapha Ramid, suggested Rabat had been justified in relaxing border controls there over Ghali's hospitalisation in Spain.

Western Sahara is a disputed territory held by Morocco since the mid-1970s, for which the Algeria-backed Polisario Front has been fighting to secure independence. Prior to that it was under Spanish control.

Ghali and other leaders of the group are accused by human rights groups and Western Sahara individuals of genocide, murder, terrorism, torture and disappearances, the document said.

Spain agreed to allow Ghali's hospitalisation in Logrono, northern Spain, as a "humanitarian gesture".

Before this week's border crisis, Moroccan authorities had warned Spain of repercussions over Ghali's presence in Spain under a false Algerian passport and an assumed name.

Morocco had in recent years worked with Spain, its biggest trading partner, to crackdown on migrant flows into Ceuta and another Spanish enclave, Melilla, as well as across the Strait of Gibraltar.

READ: Spain deports 4,800 migrants back to Morocco

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