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Refusal to grant asylum to a Saharawi citizen and dubious and questionable position adopted by Spain

Refusal to grant asylum to a Saharawi citizen and dubious and questionable position adopted by Spain

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23 January 2015

Spain has just refused to grant asylum on its land to Hassana Aalia. Hassana is a Saharawi journalist, whose country, Western Sahara, a Spanish colony, has been invaded in 1975, particularly by Morocco, when Spain passed it over by signing with the two new colonialists (Morocco and Mauritania which withdrew in 1979) illegal tripartite agreements.

Hassana Aalia is a journalist of Equipe Média and a Saharawi activist for the independence of Western Sahara. He was born in 1989 in the occupied city of El Aaiún. He engaged in the Saharawi resistance since the outbreak of the Intifada on 21 May 2005. He has been arrested and tortured on seven occasions after participating in peaceful demonstrations without being ever brought before a judge; the first time was in 2007 together with Mohamed Hali, another activist who also became a journalist acting as correspondent.
Hassana Aalia is co-founder of Equipe Média, a Saharawi news agency created in 2009 in the occupied territories of Western Sahara. On the onset and upon the installation of a growing number of tents in Akdeim Izik, Equipe Média entrusted Hassana with the task of following the events that led to the big popular demonstration which brought together up to 20 000 Saharawi citizens in the desert near occupied El Aaiún throughout the month of October 2010. Hassana filmed the organisation of the Saharawis in the camp, their reactions and protests against the Moroccan occupation, the movements of the Moroccan police and military in the encirclement of the camp, the violence and the discriminatory manoeuvres and actions.
After the dismantling of the camp on 8 November 2010, the occupying authorities launched an extensive arrest campaign. More than 300 Saharawi citizens were arrested. Hassana has been arrested twice in January 2011. Every time, the Moroccan police released him after two days in custody, as they had no charges against him in the absence of evidence.
He then participated in the 11th World Social Forum that took place in Dakar from 6 to 11 February 2011; afterwards, in September, he left the occupied territories with a visa to attend a Spanish language development programme in the Basque Country and to take part in meetings and symposia concerning the Western Sahara conflict.
At that time, he learned that an arrest warrant had been issued against him on charges of “attacking the internal and external security of the State, forming a criminal group and attacking public officials in the performance of their duty”.
In October 2012, after collecting all required documents, Hassana lodged an application for asylum with the competent Spanish authorities in the Basque Country. He firmly believes that returning to his occupied country to reunite with his family involves a serious risk to his life and his liberty. He fears being subjected to torture as those in the group with whom he has been tried and as so many fellow activists and journalists, some of whom are still missing.
At the same time, while awaiting the response to his application for asylum, Hassana continued to work as a journalist for Equipe Média and to be an activist, from Spain.
In Morocco, on 17 February 2013, the Court Martial sentenced him to life imprisonment without any evidence being brought against him to support the charges against him. According to Hassana, he has been sentenced like the other prisoners of the so-called Akdeim Izik group because of his political beliefs, he the “peaceful journalist and activist for the independence of (his) country”.
On Friday, 16 January 2015, Hassana received a summons from the Spanish National Police requesting him to go to the police office in San Sebastian on 19 January. At that time he was told that his application for asylum had been refused. His residence permit has been confiscated and the authorities gave him 15 days to leave the Spanish territory.
According to Hassana and his lawyer, the reason for the refusal of asylum by Spain is that Spain qualifies the trial of the civilian Saharawis tried and sentenced by the Moroccan Court Martial after the Akdeim Izik demonstration as a fair trial, a qualification contrary to the reports of many international observers and given the absence of evidence adduced by the Prosecution.
The legal assistance around Hassana will take all possible legal steps to cancel the 15-day period for expulsion and enable him to work towards lodging an appeal against the decision of the Minister of the Interior with the National Asylum Court within the legally prescribed period.
Considering that the Spanish people say that they stand in solidarity with and are friends of the Saharawis, strongly supporting them in the refugee camps or elsewhere, this decision of their government is particularly paradoxical.

EM, occupied El Aaiún
23 January 2015

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