Steve Cardownie: I fear Clara Ponsati won't get a fair trial in Spain
Arrest warrants were issued by the Spanish Government over the weekend for a number of Catalan politicians as part of a process to pursue those who had a leading role in holding the recent independence referendum in Catalonia.
The former Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, was arrested in Germany on Sunday morning and spent the night in a detention facility prior to attending a court hearing. Another former senior politician, Clara Ponsati, who was the education minister, was also served with a warrant and, as she is a professor at St Andrews University and was domiciled in the town, the case for her extradition will be heard in a Scottish court. It has been reported that she is to face charges of rebellion with violence back in Spain which could see her incarcerated for up to 30 years.
At the same time, several members of the former Catalan Government have been held in prison pending their trial since last October and this was extended by a Spanish judge last week despite protests.
The arrests prompted demonstrations in Barcelona where nearly 1,000 people were injured after being involved in scuffles and fighting on the streets. And, as the Catalan independence issue has reignited, there has been increased attention from the international media.
Political leaders have been making their views known with a spokesman for Germany’s Angela Merkel providing strong backing for the Spanish Government, saying: “Spain is a democracy where the rule of law exists.”
This comes as no surprise however as European government leaders, fearful of independence movements within their own borders, have been critical of Catalonia’s struggle for independence from the outset.
Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, expressed “strong opposition” to the arrests but conceded that “our police and courts are legally obliged to follow due process”.
The Spanish Government’s record on this issue is not one that inspires confidence in its objectivity as they sought to derail last October’s referendum by closing down polling booths and using Spanish police to bully and intimidate voters.
Given their outright hostility to the Catalonia independence cause, it would take a leap of faith to expect a fair and objective trial by Spanish courts – if it gets that far!