Spanish court opens probe into ex-minister's role in Polisario leader hospitalisation

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Foreign affairs ministers council in Brussels
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MADRID (Reuters) - A court in Zaragoza on Monday opened a formal investigation into the role of former Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya in the admission of Western Sahara's leader, Brahim Ghali, into a Spanish hospital in April.

An investigative magistrate will look into whether anything illegal occurred when the leader of the Polisario Front independence movement was allowed into Spain from Algeria, where he lives, and when he was admitted to hospital in the city of Logrono, a spokesperson for the Zaragoza tribunal said on Tuesday.

Gonzalez Laya will be interrogated as part of the investigation, she added. A former top aide is also under investigation.

Gonzalez Laya did not return a message seeking comment. At the time she had said Ghali was allowed to fly to Spain on humanitarian grounds and that the decision was lawful.

Ghali landed at the Spanish air force base in Zaragoza while suffering a severe case of COVID-19 in April and was hospitalized in Logrono. He returned to Algeria almost two months later.

Ghali's presence in Spain infuriated Morocco, which appeared briefly to relax border controls with the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in May, resulting in a sudden influx of migrants to the Spanish autonomous city.

The Algeria-backed Polisario Front is fighting for the independence of Western Sahara, a Spanish colony until the mid-1970s that is claimed by Morocco.

(Reporting by Inti Landauro and Emma Pinedo; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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