Spain "guilty of abuse" in Ponsati case

12 April 2018, 17:22

Clara Ponsati

Spanish authorities are "guilty of an abuse of process" in their attempts to extradite a former Catalan education minister, her lawyer has said.

Solicitor Aamer Anwar said the European arrest warrant issued for his client Professor Clara Ponsati was a "grotesque distortion of the truth" following a court hearing on her extradition.

Prof Ponsati faces charges of violent rebellion and misappropriation of public funds over her role in Catalonia's controversial independence referendum last year.

Her legal team told Edinburgh Sheriff Court the extradition would be fought on several grounds including the validly of the warrant and Prof Ponsati's human rights.

A further procedural hearing has been fixed for May 15 with a full two-week hearing to follow on July 30.

Speaking outside the court, Mr Anwar said: "We advised the court that we intend to fight the extradition on many grounds including fundamentally that the Spanish authorities are guilty of an abuse of process.

"We seek to challenge the validity of the warrant as the facts do not show that any offence has been committed by Clara Ponsati.

"The crime of violent rebellion does not exist in the law of Scotland. We will argue that the warrant has been issued for the purpose of prosecuting Clara for her political opinions.

"If extradited Clara will be prejudiced at trial or punished or detained or restricted in her personal liberty because of her political opinions.

"We will argue that Clara's extradition would be unjust and oppressive and incompatible with her human rights, which will include her rights not to be subjected to pre-trial detention without time limit, right to a fair trial, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association.

"Finally we will submit that Spain has systematically abused the process of the extradition treaty to set out allegations which they know can not amount to crimes in their own courts."

Referring to the widespread use of force by Spanish police during the referendum on October 1, he added: "To date not one single Spanish police officer has been arrested or prosecuted for their violent actions against a defenceless population and we submit that this warrant is a grotesque distortion of the truth."

Mr Anwar said Prof Ponsati's legal team was working with lawyers in Belgium, Spain, Catalonia and Germany, where last week a court rejected "rebellion" as grounds for the extradition of Catalonia's ex-leader Carles Puigdemont from the country.

"The conduct of Spain will once more be subjected to the full glare of international scrutiny," he added.

Earlier Gordon Jackson QC told Sheriff Nigel Ross: "The fundamental position which is taken here is the abuse of process.

"This is wrapping up in legalistic form something which is purely a political decision.

"It is an attempt to squeeze it into some legal formulae and we intend to show that's exactly what is happening here."

The hearing took place after Prof Ponsati voluntarily handed herself in to Scottish police last month and was released on bail after an initial court appearance.

The case has attracted a huge amount of public interest with a large crowd turning out to show their support opposite the court building.

Prof Ponsati returned to Scotland in March and resumed working at the University of St Andrews in Fife.

She had been in Belgium since fleeing Spain with Mr Puigdemont and three other former cabinet members, following an unsuccessful bid to declare independence from Spain in October.