Scotland

Clara Ponsati bailed in Edinburgh and allowed to keep passport

Clara Ponsati Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Prof Ponsati greeted supporters as she arrived at the police station in Edinburgh on Thursday

Former Catalan government minister Clara Ponsati has been bailed at Edinburgh Sheriff Court after handing herself in to police.

The St Andrews University professor is wanted in Spain over her role in the Catalan independence movement.

The 62-year-old appeared in court and was granted bail and allowed to keep her passport.

Prof Ponsati's next court appearance has been scheduled for 12 December in Edinburgh.

The full hearing is likely to take place in Spring 2020.

She arrived at St Leonard's Police Station in the capital with her solicitor Aamer Anwar on Thursday morning and was transferred to the court hearing.

'Contradictions and mistakes'

The two emerged from the court to cheers from supporters.

Mr Anwar said: "Clara Ponsati faces a single charge of 'sedition' which relates to the organising of the referendum in her role as the minister for education.

"The warrant is full of contradictions and mistakes, whilst it accuses Clara of everything, in reality the warrant provides no real examples of any alleged crime.

"Clara submits that she should not be extradited for a 'show trial' in the Supreme Court, where she believes the only verdict would be one of guilt. "

He added: "Clara views these charges as a 'politically-motivated prosecution'. We will submit that Clara's human rights cannot be guaranteed in the Spanish Courts. "

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Prof Ponsati was greeted and cheered by supporters

Sedition is the illegal act of inciting people to resist or rebel against a government in power. The crime no longer exists in Scotland.

Mr Anwar said his client now trusted her fate to the Scottish justice system which she believes "to be impartial, robust and independent".

The charges relate to Catalonia's October 2017 independence referendum - which the Spanish state deemed illegal and refused to sanction.

Prof Ponsati was education minister in the Catalan government at the time.

If extradited and convicted, she could face a sentence of up to 15 years.

Catalonia's bid for independence from Spain explained

On 6 November, Mr Anwar advised the academic not to report to police because of "glaring contradictions" in the arrest warrant.

Mr Anwar said the warrant was translated by a senior judge, Pablo Llarena, and the UK authorities were seeking clarifications on the 59-page document.

Following clarification from Judge Llarena, it was finally accepted by the UK authorities for execution.

The latest European warrant was issued after a previous warrant was withdrawn last summer.

The development comes after nine Catalan leaders were convicted of sedition over their role in the 2017 referendum.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Riot police in Barcelona tried to disperse protesters who set up burning barricades last month

Protests erupted in Barcelona last month after they were sentenced to between nine and 13 years in prison by Spain's Supreme Court.

Prosecutors argued that the unilateral declaration of independence was an attack on the Spanish state and accused some of those involved of a serious act of rebellion.

They also said separatist leaders had misused public funds while organising the 2017 referendum.

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