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Morocco ends exile of Western Sahara activist

ARRECIFE, Spain: The Western Sahara independence activist Aminatou Haidar is declaring a victory after being allowed to return home, ending her month-long hunger strike in protest at being exiled.Ms Haidar, 42, was released from hospital in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands on Thursday night and immediately headed to the airport in an ambulance before boarding a plane heading for the Western Sahara.”This is a triumph for international law, for human rights, for international justice and for the cause [of Western Sahara]” she said as she left the clinic.”The first thing I am going to do when I arrive will be to kiss my mother and my two children.”She had been admitted to intensive care after stopping eating more than a month ago, when Morocco denied her entry into the disputed territory.After being turned back from her homeland, the award-winning activist was put on a plane and sent to Lanzarote, where she started her hunger strike. She continued her hunger strike in intensive care.A medically equipped plane – fitted out to treat Ms Haidar, who was rushed to hospital shortly after midnight on Wednesday – took off from the island late on Thursday.It touched down shortly after midnight yesterday in Laayoune, the main city in Western Sahara. The phosphate-rich territory has been a source of tension since Morocco annexed it after the withdrawal of Spain in 1975.The annexation sparked a war with the Polisario Front, which is backed by Algeria. The two sides agreed to a ceasefire in 1991 but talks sponsored by the United Nations have made no progress since then.Morocco has pledged to grant the territory autonomy but rules out independence.The details of the agreement that finally led Ms Haidar heading back were not immediately clear, but Spain’s Government had vowed to work around the clock to find a solution to the situation, which had embarrassed it.Agence France-Presse
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