Spanish nationality offered to W.Sahara hunger striker

29th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

Spain's government on Saturday offered Spanish nationality to a Sahrawi human rights activist who is 13 days into a hunger strike, the foreign ministry in Madrid said.

Madrid - Spain's government on Saturday offered Spanish nationality to a Sahrawi human rights activist who is 13 days into a hunger strike, the foreign ministry in Madrid said.

Aminatou Haidar, 42, has refused to eat since 16 November, three days after Moroccan authorities denied her entry into her native Western Sahara, allegedly confiscated her passport and expelled her to the Canary Islands.

She wants Morocco to allow her to return home to Layoune, the main city in Western Sahara.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos offered her Spanish nationality "as an exceptional measure" during a telephone call on Saturday, the foreign ministry said.

Haidar -- winner of the Robert Kennedy human rights prize in 2008 -- responded that she would consider the offer, it said, after she turned down an earlier Spanish offer of political asylum.

Morocco annexed phosphate-rich Western Sahara after Spain left in 1975 and has pledged to grant it widespread autonomy, but rules out independence as demanded by the Polisario Front.

While fighting in the desert territory halted in 1991, UN-sponsored talks on Western Sahara's future have made no headway.

Haidar's spokesman Jose Morales Brum, a trade union leader in the Canary Islands, said Friday that her health was deteriorating as she continues her hunger strike at Lanzarote airport.

In an interview Saturday published in the El Pais newspaper, Haidar accused Madrid of siding with Rabat.

"I never would have thought that the Spanish government would play such a dirty role, to do such a favour for Morocco," she said, recalling how she was allowed to land in Lanzarote without a passport in hand.

Morocco's ambassador to Spain, Omar Azziman, has said Haidar could get her passport back if she recognises her Moroccan nationality.

Haidar has received several messages of support, including from Oscar-winning Spanish actor Javier Bardem and East Timor President Jose Manuel Ramos-Horta, a 1996 Nobel Peace Prize winner, who telephoned her on Friday.

The United States has also expressed concern for Haidar, who in October received an award from the New York-based Train Foundation for her human rights campaigning in Western Sahara.

Earlier this month Morocco's King Mohammed VI warned of a crackdown against "opponents of the territorial integrity of Morocco," referring to Sahrawis who support the Polisario Front.

AFP/Expatica

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