Polisario leader flies out of Spain

Ghali leaves for Algeria after triggering diplomatic row between Morocco and Spain which secretly admitted him for COVID-19 treatment under a false identity.

MADRID – Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali who is at the center of a diplomatic row between Rabat and Madrid flew out of Spain to Algeria on Tuesday night, his group said.

Ghali was released from a hospital in northern Spain following more than six weeks of treatment after contracting COVID-19, according to a statement sent to The Associated Press by the Algeria-backed separatists.

Ghali departed hours after testifying via 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, flew out of Pamplona airport overnight and will continue his recovery in Algeria, the statement said.

His presence in Spain infuriated Morocco and triggered a diplomatic crisis between the two countries, which have been cooperating in fighting terrorism, drug smuggling and migration into Europe.

Amid the dispute, thousands of migrants crossed the border from Morocco into Spain as Morocco apparently relaxed border controls. Moroccan authorities also questioned publicly whether Spain could be trusted.

Ghali checked into 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 it acted on humanitarian grounds.

Rabat has withdrawn its ambassador to Madrid and has said it wouldn’t fill the position if Ghali left Spain under the same cloak of secrecy.