Norwegian observers denied entry to Western Sahara
Two Norwegians who were to observe a trial against a Sahrawi journalist in Western Sahara are denied entry. They are currently waiting at the airport to be deported.
“The two observers, Vegard Fosso Smievioll and Kjersti Brevik Møller, who are law students in Bergen, are sent by the Rafto Foundation to observe the trial of Nazha El Kahlidi,” Erik Hagen of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara tells NTB.
Khalidi is a former student of photography at Agder Folk Highschool. She is accused of performing illegal journalism in the Morocco occupied country.
The two Norwegians weren’t let through the passport control on Sunday. They were instead placed under guard by 14 policemen in a secluded area, pending the next flight out of El Aaiún. Spanish lawyers, who are part of the group, are, likewise, to be deported.
The first charge against a Sahrawi journalist
The case against El Khalidi is principally important. This is because it is the first time a Sahrawi journalist is charged according to a law regarding journalism.
She was arrested by Moroccan police on the main street of El Aaiún last December while she was streaming a demonstration for independence on Facebook. She was arrested once again in March this year. The trial was, however, postponed until May 20th. She risks two years imprisonment if she is found guilty.
The case against El Khalidi has caused international attention. Amnesty International has urged Morocco to waive all indictments, while Human Rights Watch accuses Morocco of abusing the law in order to gag journalists.
Western Sahara occupied for nearly fifty years
Western Sahara is a territory on the west coast of Africa that has been occupied by Morocco since the former colonist Spain withdrew in 1975. The territory is largely desert, but it has rich phosphate and fish resources.
Morocco and Mauritania each took control of half the area. Mauritania withdrew in 1979, though, leaving Morocco as the only administrative power.
The Liberation Movement Polisario is fighting for independence for the country. After a guerrilla war ended in 1991 with a cease-fire, the UN has been advocating for a referendum.
The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) has control of almost uninhabitable areas in the East, while the majority of the Sahrawi live in refugee camps in the Tindouf area of Algeria.
Norway does not recognize Morocco’s claim for sovereignty over the land area, but neither does it recognize SADR as a state. The African Union (AU) has done so. This has resulted in that Morocco is the only country in Africa which is not a member of the AU.
© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today