A Spanish court has ruled that the leader of Western Sahara's secessionist movement, Brahim Ghali, should stand trial in Spain on charges of genocide, overturning an earlier decision to dismiss the case.
The National Court of Justice in Madrid on Wednesday ordered the case be reopened due to an error made by the investigating judge who dismissed the charges.
Spanish criminal law provides for such severe penalties for the offences Ghali is accused of that the decision to drop the case should not have been made in a summary procedure, the court said.
The proceedings stem from a 2008 complaint filed by the Western Sahara rights organization ASADEH - which is close to the Moroccan government - that accuses Ghali of being responsible for genocide, terrorism and torture in various alleged incidents taking place between 1975 and 1990.
Morocco claims large parts of Western Sahara, while Ghali's Polisario movement is fighting for the territory's independence.
Spain, which ruled Western Sahara as a colonial power until 1975, does not recognize Morocco's territorial claims.
In Spain for medical treatment
Ghali was in Spain to receive treatment for Covid-19 from mid-April to June. His stay caused friction between Madrid and the Moroccan government, as Rabat deems Polisario a terrorist organization.
In May, Morocco relaxed border controls with the Spanish North African exclave of Ceuta as a means of protesting Ghali's presence in Spain. Within 36 hours, some 8,000 migrants entered the city.
On Wednesday, the court said that instead of the examining magistrate, the decision to throw out the charges should have been made by a criminal court in a more thorough trial.
Whether the investigating judge's ruling on the merits of the case should stand or not is to be determined by holding a new trial, the judges said.