Arrested ex-Catalan minister Ponsati thanks Nicola Sturgeon

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A former Catalan minister facing extradition to Spain has thanked supporters and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as she handed herself over to police.

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 will 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 her human rights cannot be guaranteed in Spain.

Prof Ponsati attended St Leonard’s Police Station in the south of the city this morning where she was formally arrested.

She is due to appear from custody at Edinburgh Sheriff Court at 2pm where she will apply to be released on bail.

Clara Ponsati is expected to appear at Edinburgh Sheriff Court tomorrow. Picture: John Thys/AFP

Clara Ponsati is expected to appear at Edinburgh Sheriff Court tomorrow. Picture: John Thys/AFP

READ MORE: Michael Matheson reveals Scotland’s response to Catalan arrest

In a statement issued this morning, her solicitor Aamer Anwar said: “After we enter the police office my client will be formally placed under arrest.

“The European Arrest Warrant will then be served upon her and Clara will be transferred to Edinburgh Sheriff Court where she will appear from custody.

“The Spanish authorities wish to extradite Clara on charges of violent rebellion and misappropriation of public funds for helping to organise the referendum.

“My legal team is instructed to robustly defend Clara as she views these charges as ‘political persecution’ and a systematic attempt to crush the spirit of the Catalan people and their desire for freedom.

“She does not believe that the Spanish Courts can guarantee independence, human rights or justice. Clara remains defiant, resolute and is determined to fight back.

“She wants to thank the many hundreds of thousands of ordinary people especially in Scotland who have shown her such love and support.

“She is truly humbled by the unconditional support from students, colleagues and the principal at St Andrews University.

“Clara wishes to thank Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Government and politicians for their solidarity. Scotland has been a true friend to Catalonia in her darkest hours.

“However it is absolutely right that the independence of the judiciary in Scotland is respected and that no Government should ever interfere in that process. Clara accepts her fate now lies in the hands of the Scottish Justice system.

The economist denies the charges, which relate to her role in organising a hugely controversial referendum in October.

A hearing for the extradition will take place at 2pm today, where we will apply for Clara Ponsati to be released on bail.

The academic, a former head of St Andrews University’s school of economics, returned to the Fife town earlier this month to resume her work as a researcher.

An arrest warrent was issued by Madrid on Friday.

READ MORE: Spain-Catalonia: How can the constitutional crisis be resolved?