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Africa

Western Sahara activist Haidar flies back home

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-12-18

Western Sahara independence activist Aminatou Haidar returned to the disputed Moroccan territory early Friday from Spain's Canary Islands where she had been on hunger strike for over a month.

Reuters - A Western Sahara independence activist ended a hunger strike and left Spain on an aircraft bound for her desert homeland on Thursday, defusing a diplomatic crisis between Spain and Morocco.

A Reuters witness said Aminatou Haidar, who is campaigning for Western Sahara's independence from Morocco, departed from Lanzarote Airport in the Canary Islands, where she had been refusing food for 32 days to protest at the Rabat government's refusal to let her back into the country.

"This is a victory for international law, human rights and the cause of Western Sahara," Haidar told radio station Cadena Ser as she was being led to the aircraft.

The case has caused tensions between Spain and Morocco, which rely on each other to help fight illegal immigration and drug trafficking, and also embarrassed Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Haidar, 43, began her protest after Moroccan authorities refused her entry when she returned home from the United States after receiving a human rights prize, confiscated her passport and put her on a plane to the Canary Islands.

Morocco initially refused to accept Haidar back unless she swore loyalty to its head of state King Mohammed VI, whose father King Hassan II took control of most of Western Sahara in 1975 after Spanish colonial forces withdrew from the territory.

Earlier on Thursday, television images showed Haidar being moved to hospital and she was reported to be suffering from severe stomach and abdominal pains and vomiting.

A report in the Spanish daily El Pais on Thursday said Morocco had sent a high level delegation to the United States to try to negotiate a resolution to the case.

The report said two close advisers to King Mohammed, held talks in Washington on Tuesday and Wednesday with U.S. officials, and Spain was being kept informed of progress.

Spanish media and the opposition have accused the government of incompetence in allowing the Moroccans to send Haidar to Spain. Spanish celebrities including film actor Javier Bardem said Zapatero would be partly to blame if Haidar died.

 

Date created : 2009-12-17

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