Former Catalan minister hands herself in to police
28 March 2018, 11:26
A former Catalan minister facing extradition to Spain has handed herself in for arrest at a Scottish police station.
Professor Clara Ponsati, the ex-Catalan education minister, is being sought by the authorities in Madrid on charges of "violent rebellion and misappropriation of public funds" over her role in Catalonia's controversial independence referendum last year.
She refutes the charges and is set to embark on a legal fight to resist the attempts to have her returned Spain.
Her lawyer says she views the charges - which could attract a jail term of up to 30 years - as "political persecution" and believes that her human rights cannot be guaranteed in Spain.
Scottish-based Prof Ponsati attended a police station in Edinburgh voluntarily on Wednesday morning after she was made the subject of a European arrest warrant last week.
It is expected police will place her under arrest and formally serve the European Arrest Warrant on her.
The academic is then due to appear from custody at an initial extradition hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court later on Wednesday.
Bail will be sought and a full hearing on the extradition request is expected to be held several weeks down the line.
Her solicitor, Aamer Anwar, said on Tuesday: "I understand that Clara Ponsati faces charges of violent rebellion and misappropriation of public funds which relates to the organising of the referendum, which my client utterly refutes.
"My legal team is instructed by Professor Ponsati to robustly defend her against the Spanish attempts to extradite her.
"Clara views these charges as 'political persecution' and submits that her human rights and justice cannot be guaranteed in the Spanish Courts.
"Clara remains defiant and resolute and believes that the Spanish Government will never be able to crush the spirit of the Catalan people."
Prof Ponsati returned to Scotland earlier in March having 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.
She had resumed working at the University of St Andrews in Fife.
But a Spanish judge issued arrest warrants on Friday for Prof Ponsati and the other fugitive politicians including Mr Puigdemont, who was detained by police in Germany.
On Monday, a group of protesters congregated outside the Spanish consulate in Edinburgh to demonstrate against the arrest warrant and the actions of the Spanish Government.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Government is to raise concerns over the use of European arrest warrants with the European Commission.
Mr Anwar said of Prof Ponsati: "She is truly humbled by the support she has received from across Scotland as well as that of the Scottish Government, but believes that it is right that our courts must now decide what happens next."