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Algeria ex-soldier files UN complaint over Spain deportation

Lawyers representing a former Algerian soldier who was deported from Spain despite the risk he would be tortured in his home country have filed suit against Madrid at the United Nations.

Mohamed Benhalima, 32, fled Algeria in 2019 after taking part in the Hirak protest movement that ousted the North African country’s longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika that year.

He was detained in Spain in March and deported on grounds he allegedly participated in “activities contrary to public security or which may be harmful for Spanish relationships with foreign states”, his lawyer told AFP at the time.

Algiers had issued an international warrant for his arrest accusing him of belonging to outlawed Islamist group Rashad. He is currently serving a 10-year jail term in Algeria for rebellion.

Earlier this month, his Spanish legal team filed a complaint against Spain over his extradition at the UN Committee against Torture.

“The government of Spain manoeuvred surreptitiously to obtain the return of Mr. Benhalima despite the risk of torture that he could suffer in Algeria,” said the complaint, a copy of which was seen by AFP on Thursday.

Spanish law “prohibits the extradition of any person not only in case of risk of torture or ill-treatment but also in case of risk of execution of the death penalty”, it said.

His extradition from Spain was criticised by rights group Amnesty International, which described him as a “whistle-blower”.

Founded in 2000, the UN panel works to hold states accountable for human rights violations and pushes them to investigate reports of torture in order to stop and prevent such crimes.

It is made up of 10 independent experts whose reports are not binding.

“What we are asking is that Spain open an investigation into what sort of interest it could have in extraditing Benhalima in such a crude way,” Alejandro Gamez, one of his lawyers, told AFP.

Benhalima’s extradition came shortly after Madrid reversed its decades-long neutral stance on the Western Sahara conflict to end a spat with Morocco.

In a U-turn, Spain in March publicly backed Morocco’s autonomy plan for the disputed region — infuriating Algeria which has long backed the Polisario Front, Western Sahara’s independence movement.