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Ex-Catalan minister delays handing herself in to police in extradition case

Her legal team said UK authorities are seeking clarification of the European arrest warrant issued for Clara Ponsati.

Former Catalan minister Clara Ponsati is facing extradition to Spain (Jane Barlow/PA)
Former Catalan minister Clara Ponsati is facing extradition to Spain (Jane Barlow/PA)

By Lucinda Cameron and Katrine Bussey, PA Scotland

A former Catalan minister who is facing extradition from Scotland to Spain will no longer hand herself in to police this week amid questions over the arrest warrant.

Clara Ponsati, an economics professor at St Andrews University, is facing a charge of sedition over her role in Catalonia’s unsanctioned independence referendum in 2017, and could be sentenced to 15 years behind bars if convicted.

After a fresh European arrest warrant was issued, she was expected to hand herself in to police in Edinburgh on Thursday before appearing in court in the city.

But her legal team now says there appear to be “glaring contradictions” in the warrant, which has been sent back to Spain by UK authorities seeking clarification.

Prof Ponsati is provisionally expected to hand herself into Scottish authorities on November 14.

Her lawyer Aamer Anwar said: “This is now Spain’s third attempt to extradite Clara and they stand accused of abusing the European arrest warrant process.

“We are instructed to robustly defend Clara in what she claims to be a ‘judicially motivated act of vengeance’ against the Catalan politicians.”

Prof Ponsati was previously arrested in March 2018 and a four-week extradition hearing was expected to be heard at Edinburgh Sheriff Court last July, but a Spanish Supreme Court judge dropped the request and the warrant was formally discharged.

Mr Anwar has said he had expected another warrant to be issued for Prof Ponsati after a number of Catalan politicians were jailed in Spain.

Whenever it now takes place, the hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court will determine if Prof Ponsati is released on bail, and consider other procedural issues.

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Clara Ponsati and her lawyer Aamer Anwar (Jane Barlow/PA)

But Mr Anwar said the full extradition hearing could take eight to 12 weeks when it is heard next year.

He said: “Clara faces only a charge of sedition on this occasion, she utterly refutes that. If she is extradited and convicted Clara could face a sentence of up to 15 years.

“The defence is really one that the warrant is viewed as a systematic attempt to criminalise the fight for independence by over two million Catalans.

“It will be argued by our team that there is no guarantee of a right to a fair trial in Spain, where most of the members of the Catalan government are already in prison or exile.

“She remains resolute, she is determined to fight and she has stated repeatedly she thinks this Spanish state will never be able to crush the spirit of the Catalan people.

“She is quite ready to fight and is robust in her defence.”

PA

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