“Everything has been discreet.” After a full day managing the entry of Brahim Ghali into Spain, that was the answer that the Lieutenant General of the General Staff of the Air Force, Francisco Javier Fernández Sánchez, sent him on April 18 to Camilo Villarino, then Chief of Cabinet from Arancha González Laya, who at that time held the head of the Foreign Ministry when the crisis with Morocco broke out.
These whatsapps whose full content is now published by EL ESPAÑOL, had been demanded by the magistrate investigating the alleged illegal entry of the Saharawi leader into Spain. The diligence, requested last summer by the head of the Court of Instruction number 7 of Zaragoza, Rafael Lasala, is known after the statements of Camilo Villarino before the judge, where he insisted that the order came from the then minister.
Both Villarino and the military, a high command in the Armed Forces, acknowledged in separate official letters sent to the magistrate that they had held conversations via telephone – in the form of calls and text messages – on the afternoon of April 18.
That day, trigger of the diplomatic crisis with Morocco that ended with 10,000 immigrants crossing the fence in Ceuta several weeks later, a plane from Algeria landed at around seven thirty at the Zaragoza Air Base. Ghali traveled within. With the false identity of Mohamed Benbatouche, he later registered in the hospital in Logroño where he was admitted to be treated for Covid-19. It is unknown if he carried his official documentation because no one demanded it.
“I have warned the team that has to send the ambulance that the estimated time of arrival at the Zaragoza Base will be around 7:00 pm,” wrote Villarino. I have asked for the registration number of the ambulance, so that can pass it on to the base access control services.
-Okay. If they give us the callsign of the aircraft, I’ll pass it so that there are no authorization problems by civil air traffic control.
-Unless changes, only the patient, with an advanced covid degree, and the accompanying child should disembark. According to my information, the patient travels with an Algerian diplomatic passport and his son has some type of residence permit in Spain. In any case, the latter is not a problem and is not the responsibility of the Air Force. Who has to know already knows.
-I ask for it.
At seven thirty in the afternoon, Villarino writes again:
-General, please Please confirm when the plane has landed. Thanks.
-He just landed. The ambulance is waiting.
-Thank you General, for all the inconvenience. You have me at your disposal outdoors.
Hours later, the plane takes off back to Algeria, Ghali is already admitted to the hospital in Logroño, where he registers with a false identity, and the general informs Villarino:
-Airplane in the air. The pilot wanted to pay taxes and did not know that he was in the military part. The good work of the base has solved everything. I confirm that everything has been discreet except the Algerian crew who had hired handling and were going with civilian PPR. All done.
-Good job. To rest what is left of Sunday.
-A big hug and even another.
In all this process, as Villarino acknowledged before the judge, no one demanded his documentation from Ghali upon his arrival in Spain. The general asked him if it was necessary “that customs or immigration procedures be carried out.” “The undersigned replied that it was not necessary, this answer being perfectly coherent both with the established practice and with the applicable current legislation, “acknowledges Villarino before the judge.
In another letter addressed to the owner of the Instruction Court number 7 of Zaragoza, the head of the Zaragoza Air Base, Chief General Ortiz-Cañavete, assured that he could not state the name of the passengers traveling on the plane, since “Passports were not requested.” The order of superiority came to him and this in turn came from the Foreign Ministry.
The Zaragoza Air Base has an Operating Procedure according to which all foreign aircraft from countries outside the Schengen Zone landing there, He affirms, they must pass passport control and submit to the supervision of the State Security Forces and Bodies.
This rule is based on a General Instruction of the General Staff of the Air Force. However, in this case, says the head of the base, the usual procedure was not followed “Due to the order received from the General Staff of the Air Force.”
After knowing the content of the messages and listening to the statement of Laya’s chief of staff, Antonio Urdiales, a lawyer for the popular prosecution of the case, he has asked the judge who is handling the case to accuse the former Minister of Foreign Affairs.
That episode, the decision to smuggle him into the country, incognito and carrying a false identity, was soon known to the Moroccan secret services. The monarchy has been at odds with the Polisario Front, and the knowledge of the fact caused a diplomatic crisis with Morocco and the largest avalanche of immigrants on Ceuta, since some 10,000 people crossed the border in just 24 hours later.
His registration under another name at the Logroño hospital, as well as the opacity in the procedure by which he arrived in the national territory, as well as his departure, roused the Alawite monarchy, to which Spain did not inform of this movement. For the moment, Morocco has already claimed the dismissal of the minister as a piece after these events.