Spain issues fresh arrest warrant for Catalan academic Clara Ponsati

Authorities in Madrid have issued a fresh arrest warrant for an academic based in Scotland over her role in the controversial 2017 referendum on Catalan independence.

Clara Ponsati speaks at a protest in Glasgow earlier this year calling for Catalan political prisoners to be freed. Picture: John Devlin

Clara Ponsati, an economics professor at the University of St Andrews, is wanted by Spanish federal prosecutors for her role in an illegal plebiscite organised by the devolved Catalan government two years ago.

The vote, which violated federal Spanish law, was widely boycotted by Unionists in the north-eastern province, but saw a majority of ballots declare support for a separate Catalan state.

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Nine of 12 political leaders involved in the referendum were earlier thislast month given stiff prison sentences by Spain’s supreme court. A previous attempt to extradite Ponsati, 62, was withdrawn in July last year.

Prof Ponsati, 62, denies any wrongdoing and will resist extradition. She is expected to appear in court on Thursday.

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Prof Ponsati’s full extradition hearing had been due to begin in Edinburgh last summer, with Scottish prosecutors prepared to use the centuries-old law of treason to try to send her back to Spain.

A Spanish Supreme Court judge dropped the extradition request for the 62-year-old, an ex-Catalan education minister.

The decision by Spanish judges to drop the case came after a German court ruled in 2018 that former Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont could not be sent back to Spain for rebellion, only to face charges of embezzlement connected to alleged misuse of public funds for a referendum on secession.

Sheriff Nigel Ross told Ponsati at the time: “As you know the arrest warrant from Spain has been withdrawn and therefore it just remains for me formally to discharge you from the European Arrest Warrant.”

Speaking outside the court, Prof Ponsati said: “I am just determined to keep fighting for the freedom of all political prisoners, for civil rights in Catalonia and Spain and for the Republic of Catalonia.”

In a statement, her solicitor Aamer Anwar said it had been a “humiliating defeat for the Spanish state”, which since had “unleashed a wave of repression attacking the Catalan people”.