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Western Sahara activist begins hunger strike in Spain

Madrid – An award-winning Western Sahara activist went on hunger strike in Spain on Monday to protest Morocco’s refusal to allow her to return to the disputed territory, a member of her entourage said.

Aminatou Haidar stopped taking food at midnight on Sunday, said the head of the National Union of Western Sahara Women, Zahra Ramdan.

Haider was arrested by Moroccan authorities on her arrival in the Western Sahara capital of Laayoune on Friday on a flight from Spain’s Canary Islands, and then sent back to Spain.

Haidar has filed a complaint against the Moroccan authorities for forced expulsion as well as against Spain, which she said is holding her in the country against her will, Ramdan said.

The Spanish foreign ministry said Sunday that Haidar cannot leave Spain "without a passport or other travel document, which she currently does not have, because she has declared that her Moroccan passport has been taken away."

It said she re-entered Spain on Saturday using her Spanish residency permit.

Haidar in September was awarded the Civil Courage Prize by the Train Foundation in New York for "her campaign on behalf of the self-determination of Western Sahara and against (Moroccan) government abuses and disappearances of prisoners of conscience".

The Polisario Front has been fighting for the independence of Western Sahara since it was annexed by Morocco after Spain left in 1975.

On 6 November, King Mohammed VI warned of a crackdown against "opponents of the territorial integrity of Morocco," referring to Sahrawis who support the Polisario Front.

With Algerian backing, the Polisario Front is holding out for independence.

AFP / Expatica