- The Western Sahara independence activist has been allowed back to her home country, ending a month-long hunger strike at Lanzarote airport in Spain’s Canary Islands after being refused entry by Morocco on her return from the United State.
Local reports said Morocco early today gave in to pleas from foreign governments, defusing a diplomatic row that had threatened European Union-Morocco relations.
Ms Aminatou Haidar had spent 32 days on a hunger strike on the island of Lanzarote in Spain's Canary Islands to protest Morocco's refusal to let her return home to the disputed Moroccan territory after receiving a human rights prize in the United States.
A Spanish government jet carrying the activist Ms Haidar left Lanzarote Airport in Spain's Canary Islands around 10:30 pm en route to El Aaiun Airport in Western Sahara.
Former Moroccan King Hassan II took control of most of phosphate-rich Western Sahara in 1975 after Spanish colonial forces withdrew from the territory.
"The decision to let her return, honors the king and the Moroccan authorities and once again shows their commitment to democracy and the consolidation of a state of rights," the Spanish government said in a statement.
She began her hunger strike on 16 November.
Human rights activists believe that western governments are cynically ignoring the legitimate demands of Sahrawis to protect their commercial and strategic interests (which include countering the influence of both China and al-Qaeda in Africa) through their relations with Morocco.
Ms Haidar has reportedly suffered torture and detention in the past and began her latest protest when Morocco insisted she swear loyalty to King Mohammed as a condition of her return.
Morocco annexed the Western Sahara as Spain abandoned it in 1975, and the territory is sometimes called Africa’s last remaining colony. The Polisario Front, based in neighbouring Algeria, waged a guerrilla war for independence until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire deal that provided for a referendum. But the vote has yet to be held and Morocco says that the most it will grant is autonomy.
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