November 29, 2009 / 9:30 PM / 8 years ago

Saharan hunger-striker refuses Spanish passport

2 Min Read

<p>Prominent Western Sahara independence campaigner Aminatou Haidar sits while on a hunger strike at the Guacimeta airport, on Spain's Canary island of Lanzarote, November 27, 2009.Borja Suarez</p>

MADRID (Reuters) - A West Saharan activist on hunger strike at a Spanish airport has rejected the country's offer of a Spanish passport in a bid to help her return home, the activist's lawyer said Sunday.

Aminatou Haidar has been at Lanzarote airport in the Canary Islands refusing food for two weeks, ever since she was expelled from her desert homeland by Moroccan authorities who say she refused to sign a paper saying she was a Moroccan citizen.

Surviving on sugared water, Haidar's deteriorating condition has become an embarrassment for the Spanish government which has tried to find ways to get her to eat again and also to allow her to return home.

Haidar, who has campaigned for independence of Western Sahara from Morocco, cannot travel because Moroccan authorities took her passport away from her before putting her on a flight to Spain.

Spain's latest attempt to find a solution ended in failure Sunday, when a senior Foreign Ministry official failed to convince her to accept a Spanish passport and travel back.

"She doesn't want to be a foreigner in her own country," Haidar's Spanish lawyer, Ines Miranda, told reporters at Lanzarote airport, according to newspaper El Pais.

Haidar is angry with Spain, which she says collaborated with Morocco by accepting her after she was expelled from the Western Sahara. She wants her old Moroccan passport returned but refuses to ask Moroccan authorities for a new one.

Her cause has been adopted by celebrities including film director Pedro Almodovar and actor Javier Bardem, who have called on Spain's Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to find a way for her to go home.

Morocco took control of most of the Western Sahara in 1975 after Spain withdrew from the desert territory.

Reporting by Jason Webb

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