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Wanted ex-Catalan minister set to surrender

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Protesters scuffle with riot police blocking the road leading to the central government offices at a demonstration in Barcelona on March 25, 2018 after Catalonia’s former president was arrested by German police. German police arrested Catalonia’s deposed leader Carles Puigdemont on March 25, 2018, five months after he went into self-imposed exile in Belgium over his failed bid to break the region away from Spain. LLUIS GENE / AFP

A former Catalan minister wanted by Spain for her role in last year’s independence bid is “making arrangements” to surrender to authorities in Scotland, where she had fled to, police said Sunday.

A Spanish judge on Friday issued international and European arrest warrants for Clara Ponsati and other separatist leaders, including former regional president Carles Puigdemont.

After Puigdemont was arrested in Germany, a Police Scotland spokesman said: “We can confirm that we are in possession of a European arrest warrant for Clara Ponsati.

“We have made a number of enquiries to try to trace her and have now been contacted by her solicitor, who is making arrangements for Ms Ponsati to hand herself into police.”

Her lawyer Aamer Anwar said she was “shocked, she’s horrified but she’s resolute” in preparing to fight the extradition bid.

“The Spanish authorities have overplayed their game,” he told Sky News television.

“Repeatedly over the last several months, they have shown themselves to act outwith the norms of democracy, outwith the norms of judicial process and a fair and independent judiciary.

“It is a political prosecution is what will be argued, and, secondly, we do not think that the Spanish authorities can guarantee an independent judicial process that will treat Clara fairly.”

‘Rebellion’

Spain’s Supreme Court said it would prosecute 13 key separatists including Ponsati for “rebellion”, a crime which carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in jail.

Ponsati was a minister in the Catalan government when it declared independence from the rest of Spain following a referendum in October.

She fled later that month with Puigdemont and three other former ministers to Brussels, after Spain — which declared the referendum illegal — dismissed the Catalan executive and imposed direct rule.

Ponsati then returned to the University of St Andrews, northeast of Edinburgh, where she had formerly worked, and is a professor in the school of economics and finance.

She told the BBC earlier this month that the Madrid government and parts of the Spanish judiciary “were determined to violate human rights in order to repress the leadership of the Catalan referendum”.

“As a member of the government that called for, organised, this referendum, I was pretty sure I would have gone to prison had I stayed,” she said.

She condemned the imprisonment of Catalan leaders in Spain as an “outrage”.

Ponsati has received support from members of the Scottish National Party, who hold power in the devolved government in Edinburgh and advocate secession from the United Kingdom.

However, Scottish first minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon made clear Sunday that politicians “have no powers to intervene” in the extradition process.

“It is well established that the Scottish government supports the right of the people of Catalonia to determine their own future and that we strongly oppose the Spanish government’s decision to seek the arrest and imprisonment of independence-supporting politicians,” she said in a statement.

Ponsati did not respond to an AFP request for comment.


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