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Ponsati lawyer vows to ‘robustly defend’ Catalan academic facing extradition

Outside court, solicitor Aamer Anwar said European extradition warrants should not ‘be used as a tool of political oppression’.

The lawyer for a former Catalan education minister battling extradition to Spain has said he will “robustly defend” the Scottish-based academic.

Solicitor Aamer Anwar spoke out as he arrived at court for a preliminary hearing with Professor Clara Ponsati.

She faces charges of violent rebellion and misappropriation of public funds over her role in Catalonia’s controversial independence referendum last year.

Prof Ponsati “utterly refutes” the charges, which could result in a sentence of up to 25 years and eight years respectively if she were to be extradited and convicted.

Arriving at court, Prof Ponsati was greeted by a crowd of supporters.

Making a short statement to the press, her lawyer Mr Anwar said: “We intend to robustly defend Clara Ponsati against the extradition attempts by the Spanish authorities.

“European extradition warrants were never set up to be used as a tool of political oppression.”

The hearing was held after Prof Ponsati voluntarily handed herself in to Scottish police last month. After an initial court appearance then she was released on bail.

The academic returned to Scotland earlier in March and resumed working at the University of St Andrews in Fife.

The charges against her are contained in an extradition warrant from the Spanish Supreme Court issued last month.

The case has attracted a huge amount of public support with more than £230,000 raised through an online crowdfunder set up to help her fight the extradition.

Prior to her return to Scotland Prof Ponsati had 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.

Last week a German court rejected “rebellion” as grounds for Mr Puigdemont’s extradition from the country and released him on bail.

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