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Sahara independence head to leave Spain

Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali, who has been treated for COVID-19 in Spain for more than a month, is to leave the country within hours, a Spanish diplomatic source and a source close to Ghali says.

The Western Sahara independence movement leader plans to fly to Algeria from Pamplona at 1.40am (0940 AEST) on Wednesday.

“It doesn’t make more sense that he remains in Spain,” Spain’s Transport Minister Jose Luis Abalos told 24h TV channel.

He said Ghali entered Spain on humanitarian grounds and he no longer needed that aid.

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’s admittance in April to a hospital in the northern Spanish city of Logrono infuriated Morocco.

Perhaps in retaliation, Morocco last month appeared to relax border controls with the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, resulting in a sudden influx of migrants to the Spanish autonomous city.

Spain’s High Court earlier on Tuesday turned down a request for Ghali to be taken into custody, saying the plaintiffs in a war crimes case against him had failed to provide evidence he had committed any crime in the preliminary hearing.

The court said Ghali, who took part in the proceeding remotely from the hospital, was not a flight risk.

Moroccan authorities have been informed about Ghali’s planned departure, the Spanish diplomatic source said.

The Algerian government was not immediately available for comment.

Ghali and other Polisario leaders are accused by human rights groups and Western Sahara individuals of genocide, murder, terrorism, torture and disappearances, a court document said. He denies any wrongdoing.

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