Spain has withdrawn an international arrest warrant for former Catalan politician and St Andrews University academic Clara Ponsati who has been fighting extradition from the UK, in a move her lawyer characterised as a ‘disaster’ for the country.
A Spanish Supreme Court judge has dropped his extradition requests for six Catalan separatist politicians wanted on rebellion charges, including Carles Puigdemont - Catalonia’s ex-regional president who fled to Belgium to avoid arrest and then went to Germany.
Authorities in Madrid had been seeking Prof Ponsati on charges of violent rebellion and misappropriation of public funds over her role in Catalonia’s controversial independence referendum last year.
In a decision published on Thursday, Judge Pablo Llarena said he is revoking the European and international arrest warrants against the six in what the Catalan separatist movement will likely regard as a major victory against Spain’s central authorities.
The charges are in connection with the Catalan regional government’s unauthorised referendum last year on independence from Spain and a subsequent unilateral declaration of independence by the separatist-controlled regional parliament.
Prof Ponsati has been fighting the extradition charges in the Scottish courts.
However, it is understood a national arrest warrant remains in place which means she could be arrested by the Spanish authorities if she returns to Spain.
Her lawyer Aamer Anwar said: What people need to understand is that the national warrants still remain in place for all these ministers. Therefore they remain political exiles and they can still be prosecuted on charges if they were to return to Spain or to Catalonia.
“At the very beginning I said Spain stood accused of abusing the European Arrest Warrant. If they were to do so it would be seen as an abuse, but it would have to be argued in court.
“The Spanish, under the Treaty, are perfectly entitled to reissue the warrants in the hope that they would be luckier the next time around.
“The final thing I would say, the first thing I would check to see was if there had really been a change of heart of the Supreme Court or of Llarena it would be the release of all the political prisoners. All those political prisoners still remaining in custody.
“The prosecutors office has confirmed as of this afternoon that they will remain in custody. And they will still be prosecuted. Whilst we have won the battle, we have not won the war. It is a humiliating defeat for the Spanish authorities, it is almost a stalemate because my client and others still remain in political exile.”