Police set to arrest St Andrews-based Catalan academic

Lawyer for Clara Ponsati, the former Catalan education minister whose extradition is sought by Spain, says she will hand herself in

March 27, 2018
Protest on the streets of Barcelona on the National Day of Catalonia 2014
Source: iStock

The economist and former education minister of Catalonia, Clara Ponsati, is set to be arrested by Scottish police despite protests from the University of St Andrews that she may be “targeted for standing up for her political beliefs”.

Professor Ponsati was director of the university’s School of Economics and Finance until last July, when she left to become a minister in the Catalan government.

Following the Catalan independence referendum in October – denounced by Madrid as illegitimate but marred by police violence – Catalan government ministers fled Spain, with Professor Ponsati rejoining St Andrews as a researcher earlier this month.

Now Catalan politicians overseas are being held following the re-issuance of a European arrest warrant by Spain on charges of rebellion.

Aamer Anwar, the solicitor and rector of the University of Glasgow who is representing Professor Ponsati, said that he would “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,” he said in a statement. “Clara remains defiant and resolute and believes that the Spanish government will never be able to crush the spirit of the Catalan people.”

The prospect of Professor Ponsati’s arrest has drawn criticism from a number of Scottish politicians, including first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has condemned Madrid’s warrant, although she said that the Scottish government had no power to intervene in the legal process.

Following pressure from student groups and other campaigners, Sally Mapstone, St Andrews’ vice-chancellor, released a statement in support of Professor Ponsati.

“We are deeply concerned by recent developments, their motives and potential consequences,” she said.

“In the current circumstances, we believe there are legitimate arguments that Clara is being targeted for standing up for her political beliefs. That is anathema to us, and we will continue to offer her every appropriate support, while respecting due legal process.”

Professor Ponsati will hand herself in to police on the morning of 28 March, and face an extradition hearing in the afternoon, according to a statement from Mr Anwar.

david.matthews@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

This person has played a central role in committing a very serious offence. She took part in the organisation of a referendum that was unlawful under Spanish law. She and others were warmed repeatedly by the Spanish government that they would be breaching the law if they went ahead with the organisation of a referendum that is unlawful. Accordingly, a state attorney (not the Spanish government) has brought the case for sedition and mishandling public funds (that is, the millions of public funds spent in the organisation of a referendum that was unlawful) and the judge has put them in jail because there is a risk they run away (like Puigdemont and Ponsati herself did). The German judge who has imprisoned Puigdemont last Sunday has understood it perfectly. Ponsati, like Puigdemont, are not tried because of their "political ideas", but because they organised an illegal referendum that breached the Spanish constitution with the purpose of declaring a Republic in Catalonia, and spent millions from public funds to do so. In Britain, that would be called "high treason". What would happened if, for instance, the mayor of St Andrews organised a referendum, without the consent of the British and the Scottish governments, to proclaim the independence of the Kingdom of Fife, spending millions in the organisation, although he/she knew it was unlawful? Would you call that "political freedom"? or would the UK attorney office bring him/her to justice for high treason and mishandling public funds? Pro-independence supporters may cry as much as they want -- Ponsati has committed high treason and mishandled public funds, and she will be tried accordingly alongside Puigdemont and the others. They can lie as much as they want about Catalonia being "a nation" and about Madrid "stealing from Catalonia", but the law is the law, and an independent judge will not buy they cheap demagogy, like no judge and no PM in the world have.

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