Clara Ponsati 'defiant' in face of extradition proceedings

A former Catalan minister facing extradition to Spain remains "defiant and resolute" as she prepares to hand herself in to the authorities in Scotland, according to her lawyer.

Professor Clara Ponsati, the ex-Catalan education minister, is set to begin a "robust" legal fight resisting Spanish attempts to have her returned to the country to face charges of rebellion, which she refutes.

Her lawyer, Aamer Anwar, says she views the charges - which could attract a jail term of up to 30 years - as "political persecution" and believes that her human rights and justice "cannot be guaranteed" in Spain.

Prof Ponsati is 'humbled' by the support she has received in Scotland (Jane Barlow/PA)
Prof Ponsati is 'humbled' by the support she has received in Scotland (Jane Barlow/PA)

Scottish-based Prof Ponsati is due to attend a police station in Edinburgh voluntarily on Wednesday after she was made the subject of a European arrest warrant last week.

It is expected that police will then place her under arrest and formally serve the European Arrest Warrant on her.

The academic is then due to appear from custody at an initial extradition hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court later that same day, her lawyer said.

Bail will be sought and a full hearing on the extradition request is expected to be held in several weeks' time.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday's events, Mr Anwar said: "I understand that Clara Ponsati faces charges of violent rebellion and misappropriation of public funds which relates to the organising of the referendum, which my client utterly refutes.

"My legal team is instructed by Professor Ponsati to robustly defend her against the Spanish attempts to extradite her.

"Clara views these charges as 'political persecution' and submits that her human rights and justice cannot be guaranteed in the Spanish Courts.

"Clara remains defiant and resolute and believes that the Spanish Government will never be able to crush the spirit of the Catalan people."

I will be writing to the Spanish Ambassador in London, asking for a meeting and an explanation for the arrest warrant for Clara Ponsatí. Spain needs to think carefully, arresting politicians in such a situation is not the right thing to do in a democracy.

-- Ian Blackford (@IanBlackfordMP) March 25, 2018

Prof Ponsati returned to Scotland earlier in March, having been in Belgium since fleeing Spain with Catalonia's ex-leader Carles Puigdemont and three other former cabinet members following an unsuccessful bid to declare independence from Spain in October.

She had resumed working at the University of St Andrews in Fife.

But a Spanish judge issued arrest warrants on Friday for Prof Ponsati and the other fugitive politicians, including Mr Puigdemont, who was detained by police in Germany.

On Monday, protesters held a rally in Edinburgh to show their support for Prof Ponsati and the other former members of Catalonia's regional government.

Around 60 people congregated outside the Spanish consulate to demonstrate against the arrest warrant and the actions of the Spanish Government.

Meanwhile, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has written to the Spanish Ambassador in London requesting an urgent meeting on the issue, and the Scottish Government is to raise concerns over the use of European arrest warrants with the European Commission.

Mr Anwar said of Prof Ponsati: "She is truly humbled by the support she has received from across Scotland as well as that of the Scottish Government, but believes that it is right that our courts must now decide what happens next."

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