Ex-Catalan minister Clara Ponsati: Spanish extradition '˜grotesque'

A former Catalan minister facing extradition from the UK to Spain on charges of fomenting rebellion has described the claims as a 'grotesque distortion of the truth'.

Professor Clara Ponsati, a former education minister, is being sought by Spanish authorities over her role in the region’s controversial independence referendum last year.

She has since resumed working at the University of St Andrews in Fife, but agreed to hand herself in to Scottish police after a European Arrest Warrant was issued.

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Professor Ponsati voluntarily attended a police station in Edinburgh today where she was arrested, before attending an extradition hearing.

Held in front of Sheriff Nigel Ross at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, the hearing lasted less than 10 minutes and saw the academic granted bail and instructed to surrender her passport.

The proceedings were watched by a number of Professor Ponsati’s supporters, including SNP MSPs Mairi Gougeon, Ivan McKee and Clare Haughey.

Clara Ponsati appeared outside court in Edinburgh with lawyer Aamer Anwar. Picture: Jon Savage.

Around 150 demonstrators waving Saltires and Catalonia flags also gathered outside the court, holding banners accusing Spain of failing to respect democracy.

Speaking outside court, Professor Ponsati’s solicitor Aamer Anwar said the 52-page arrest warrant accused her of rebellion and the misappropriation of public funds.

The academic denies the charges and is opposing her extradition to Spain, where the offences carry a maximum jail sentence of 33 years. Another hearing is scheduled for 12 April.

“Clara wishes for me to state that these charges are politically motivated and a grotesque distortion of the truth,” Mr Anwar said.

Clara Ponsati appeared outside court in Edinburgh with lawyer Aamer Anwar. Picture: Jon Savage.

“She cannot believe that she is being held responsible for the violence that took place on the day of the referendum.

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“She believes that the Catalan people tried to express a democratic right to decide their own destiny, and the only people that should be held responsible for the brutal violence was the Spanish police and the 6,000 state security forces who attacked the Catalan people on behalf of the Spanish government.

“She submits that Spain has not followed due process, cannot guarantee the independence of the judiciary and has repeatedly abused the human rights of the Catalan people.”

An online crowdfunding drive to raise money for Professor Ponsati’s extradition defence had exceeded £174,000 by earlier today.