Clara Ponsati bailed following Edinburgh Sheriff Court appearance

Clara Ponsati was granted bail today at Edinburgh Sheriff Court after authorities in Madrid began a fresh bid to have the former Catalan minister extradited from Scotland.

Former Catalan minister Clara Ponsati who is facing extradition to Spain arrives at St Leonard's Police Station, with her lawyer Aamer Anwar. Picture: PA
Former Catalan minister Clara Ponsati who is facing extradition to Spain arrives at St Leonard's Police Station, with her lawyer Aamer Anwar. Picture: PA

The St Andrews University academic, 62, is wanted by federal prosecutors in Spain for her involvement in the hugely controversial Catalan independence referendum in 2017 - an event organised by the devolved administration in the north-eastern Spanish province for which she served as education minister.

The economics lecturer, who denies any wrongdoing, appeared in court on Thursday after earlier handing herself in at St Leonard's police station in the south of the capital. She was allowed to keep her passport and is due back in court on December 12.

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Spain issues fresh arrest warrant for Catalan academic Clara Ponsati

Ponsati faces a single charge of sedition. Speaking outside St Leonard's this morning, her lawyer Aamer Anwar said: "We believe this is an abuse of the extradition process, we believe this is an abuse of the European Arrest Warrant.

"The crime of sedition is a 16th-century offence that was created by kings and queens to stop backlash from ordinary people that wanted their rights.

"Luckily in Scotland, sedition was abolished a long time ago.

"We will be fighting this on the basis of Clara's human rights being abused if she is returned back to Spain."

Prof Ponsati served in the Catalan administration when it organised a 2017 referendum on whether the province should break from Spain - despite stern warnings from the Spanish federal authorities that it violated the country's written constitution.

The vote was widely boycotted by Catalan unionists and delivered a landslide result for pro-independence supporters, a result declared illegal by the central government in Madrid.

Nine of 12 political leaders involved in the referendum were last month given stiff prison sentences by Spain’s supreme court.

The academic'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 But Spanish Supreme Court judge dropped the extradition request.

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.

In a statement issued following his client’s appearance in court, Mr Anwar continued: “If there is anyone who should be put on trial then it is the Spanish state for unleashing an orgy of violence on the Catalan people, for its assaults on the right to vote, the right to protest and on the fundamental human right to self-determination.

“The Spanish authorities have repeatedly abused the European Arrest Warrant.

“We are instructed by Clara to robustly defend her from what she describes as ‘judicially motivated revenge’.

“Clara wishes to put on notice all those Spanish politicians who have abused the rule of law that they will also be exposed to scrutiny in her defence.

“Clara trusts that her fate now lies in the hands of the Scottish justice system which she believes to be impartial, robust and independent.”