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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Ex-Catalan minister arrested in Scotland

Academic Clara Ponsati has launched an appeal to raise funds for her legal fight to remain in Scotland

Former Catalan minister Clara Ponsati, accompanied by her lawyer Aamer Anwar, leave court after she received bail after an extradition hearing.  EPA/ANDY RAIN
Former Catalan minister Clara Ponsati, accompanied by her lawyer Aamer Anwar, leave court after she received bail after an extradition hearing. EPA/ANDY RAIN

A former Catalan minister wanted in Spain for rebellion has vowed to fight against extradition after being arrested in Scotland where she is working as a university academic.

Professor Clara Ponsati was one of five fugitive Catalan officials being sought for trial in Spain after last year’s declaration of independence by leaders of the country’s wealthiest region. If found guilty of “violent rebellion” and misappropriation of funds she could be jailed for up to 30 years.

The six included former president Carles Puigdemont who was arrested in Germany last week as he travelled across the county from Finland to Belgium where he had been staying to avoid arrest following last year’s contested push for independence.

He had been joined in Brussels by Prof Ponsati who returned to Scotland earlier this month to resume her work at the University of St Andrews.

Prof Ponsati, who was the Catalonian education minister, handed herself in to police in Edinburgh on Wednesday to be arrested and later appeared in court for a ten-minute hearing. She was freed on bail after handing over her passport, pending a full hearing at a later date to be decided.

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She, like Mr Puigdemont, claimed that her human rights could not be guaranteed in Spain.

Prof Ponsati has set up a crowdfunding drive to raise money for her defence against extradition that has raised more than £160,000 in a few hours.

“It pains me to say this but there is no guarantee of due process in Spain and no guarantee of a right to a fair trial in a country where most members of the Catalan Government are already in prison or in exile.”

Scotland – which is led by a party seeking to break away from the UK – has been one of the strongest backers of Catalonian independence. The Scottish government and its first minister Nicola Sturgeon said that it was powerless to block the extradition process.

“Clara remains defiant, resolute and is determined to fight back,” said her solicitor Aamer Anwar. “Clara wishes to thank Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Government and politicians for their solidarity. Scotland has been a true friend to Catalonia in her darkest hours."

The hearing came as Catalonia’s parliament reaffirmed the right of Mr Puigdemont, 55, to be re-elected to his old post.

The symbolic motion was passed after pro-independence parties won a narrow election victory in December after the Spanish government disbanded Mr Puigdemont’s administration. The German courts will decide if he is to be re-elected.