LIMA (Reuters) - Peruvian authorities sent an emissary of an independence movement in the Western Sahara on a flight back to Spain after she spent two weeks in the Lima airport and refused to leave, the national migration authority said on Wednesday night.
Jadiyetu El Mohtar, a Spanish citizen who describes herself as the ambassador to Peru for a disputed area in the Western Sahara known as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), had been denied entry to Peru for alleged political activities on a prior visit, Peru’s foreign ministry said earlier on Wednesday.
Peru is one of a few dozen countries that has recognized the self-declared SADR, which the Polisario independence movement claims is a separate state from Morocco. SADR is not recognized as a state by the United Nations and Peru suspended diplomatic ties with SADR in 1996.
El Mohtar had hoped to help reestablish those ties, she told Reuters by phone from the international arrivals area of Lima’s airport before her departure on Wednesday. She said she was awaiting an appeal to the decision to block her entry.
Peru said El Mohtar had violated the terms of a tourist visa by taking part in political activities during a previous visit. It refused to grant her another visa and had urged her to comply with its order to fly back to Spain.
El Mohtar has denied any wrongdoing and said her stay in Peru in July and August included meetings with environmentalists and feminists and did not violate migratory laws.
“I am sleeping on an inflatable mattress,” El Mohtar said. “I have come to work to pave the way for re-establishing diplomatic relations with Peru.”
Peru’s foreign affairs ministry said it was not considering reestablishing diplomatic ties with SADR and does not recognize Polisario representatives as diplomats.
El Mohtar said she has visited Colombia, Ecuador and Cuba without any problem.
Earlier this year, Peru banned a Canadian activist and a U.S. journalist from Peru after they screened a film critical of a mining company in an Andean region while on tourist visas.
In April, the U.N. Security Council unanimously backed attempts to restart talks between Morocco and Polisario over the Western Sahara conflict, and extended its peacekeeping mission there for another year.
Reporting by Marco Aquino and Mitra Taj; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien & Shri Navaratnam