Spain’s High Court has dropped an inquiry into alleged genocide and war crimes by the Western Sahara independence leader who was taken in by Madrid earlier this year for medical treatment, a move which angered Rabat.

On Thursday, the Spanish court said that there was not enough evidence against Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali to support the accusations against him, and that the case was being considered too late. 

Judge Santiago Pedraz said that the 20-year statute of limitations which covered the alleged crimes had now expired. It is presumed that the alleged abuses would have taken place between 1975 and 1990. 

Ghali, who received medical treatment in Spain earlier this year, heads up the rebel group Polisario Front and the self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, based in Algeria. Western Sahara, which the Polisario Front has fought Morocco over, was annexed by Rabat in 1970.

The independence leader’s admission to a Spanish hospital in the northern city of Logrono in April triggered a major diplomatic row between Madrid and Morocco. In June, Ghali returned to Algeria, from where he has been running the self-declared state.

In May, thousands of migrants crossed into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta from Morocco, with Madrid claiming Rabat’s border guards had even encouraged people to break into Spain’s African port.

Moroccan Minister of State for Human Rights El Mustapha Ramid posted on Facebook about the controversy, saying: “What did Spain expect from Morocco, which sees its neighbor hosting the head of a group that took up arms against the kingdom?”

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