Posted 2009/12/18

Western Sahara: Expelled Sahrawi human rights defender Aminatou Haidar allowed home

Front Line was pleased to receive confirmation today that human rights defender Aminatou Haidar has finally been allowed to return home to her family after 32 days on hunger strike. According to BBC sources Ms Haidar was able to speak to members of the media before boarding the flight. "This is a triumph for international law, for human rights, for international justice and for the cause of the Western Sahara" said Ms Haidar.

Text of BBC Report

Aminatou Haidar smiles as she leaves hospital in Lanzarote, 17 December Aminatou Haidar has been fasting for more than a month. A Western Sahara activist expelled by Morocco has been allowed to return from Spain after maintaining a hunger strike for 32 days.

Aminatou Haidar, 42, left Lanzarote airport in the Canary Islands on a small, private plane after a deal was reached, details of which are unclear. She said her fast would continue until she was safely home with her children. Living on only sweetened water, she has developed health problems, and left hospital in Lanzarote in an ambulance.

"This is a triumph for international law, for human rights, for international justice and for the cause" of the Western Sahara, she told reporters as she left.

The US, France and Spain are believed to have been involved in the negotiations with Morocco to send her home to Laayoune, the main town in Western Sahara, the BBC's Sarah Rainsford reports. The mother-of-two had been returning to Laayoune after accepting a human rights award in the US when she was stopped by the Moroccan authorities.

They denied her entry to the disputed territory, confiscating her passport on the grounds that she had rejected her Moroccan nationality. Morocco controls the Western Sahara but many there want self-determination.

Ms Haidar turned down a Spanish offer of citizenship or political asylum.She was reported to be suffering from severe abdominal pains and vomiting but refused to be force-fed. Her protest at her treatment won the support of many prominent Spaniards including actor Javier Bardem and film director Pedro Almodovar.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8419812.stm