Page last updated at 17:34 GMT, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Morocco demands apology from hunger strike activist

Aminatou Haidar
Ms Haidar remains camped at Lanzarote's airport

A senior Moroccan official has said a Western Sahara activist refused re-entry to Morocco must apologise before her passport is returned.

Aminatou Haidar has been on hunger strike at Lanzarote airport, in Spain's Canary Islands, since being blocked from entering Morocco on 15 November.

She has been nicknamed the "Gandhi of Sahara" after seeking independence for a disputed region of Western Sahara.

Morocco controls the Western Sahara but many there want self-determination.

Moroccan officials confiscated Ms Haidar's passport when, on returning from Lanzarote after collecting a prize, she refused to state her citizenship as Moroccan.

'Weak condition'

Abderraham Leibek said Ms Haidar voluntarily handed over her passport and would be pardoned - and a new passport provided - if she apologised.

"When a Moroccan carries out an act of treason against her homeland, the only way in which Morocco - the Moroccan government - will pardon her is if she apologises," he said in comments on Spanish television.

Ms Haidar completed her 17th day of hunger strike on Wednesday. She has been surviving on sweetened water.

She has vowed to carry on refusing food and has said she is prepared to die if she cannot return home.

She refused an offer of Spanish nationality offered to her on Saturday in an attempt to end the deadlock.

Instead, Ms Haidar, who is camped outside Lanzarote airport, has demanded her original passport back and refuses to ask for another one.

Supporters say Ms Haidar, who won the Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Award last year, is in a weak condition.

Morocco annexed Western Sahara in 1975 after Spain withdrew from the territory.

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