The defence team for Clara Ponsatí, the former Catalan education minister now living in Scotland and fighting extradition to Spain for her role in the 2017 Catalan independence referendum, is seeking to summon Spain’s acting acting prime minister Pedro Sánchez and former prime minister Mariano Rajoy to court in Edinburgh as witnesses.
After a preliminary hearing at a court in Edinburgh on Thursday, Ponsatí’s lawyers also requested the acting Spanish Interior Minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska to attend the extradition trial as a witness, as well as the former Foreign Minister, Josep Borrell, who is now the EU head of diplomacy.
The defence team also intend to summon former deputy prime minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, former foreign affairs minister José Manuel García-Margallo, the current Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska, as well as the leader of the far-right Vox party, Santiago Abascal.
Aamer Anwar, lawyer for Ponsatí, said after the hearing that he would seek the ‘help’ from Spanish authorities in order to make sure that those summoned would attend the court as witnesses.
Ponsatí is fighting extradition after a new European arrest warrant was issued by the Spanish authorities for sedition charges for her role in the 2017 independence bid. It has been reported that the Scottish prosecutor, acting on behalf of the Spanish one, will request extradition for treason, considered to be equivalent to the crime of sedition in Spain.
‘The prosecutions are seen as a politically motivated attempt to criminalise a desire for independence,’ said Aamer Anwar to the media. Spain is moved by ‘vengeance, total contempt and lack of respect for human rights’ in the case, he added.
Clara Ponsatí will now face another preliminary hearing on 23 January which is also when the court is expected to announce the timeline for the process, expected to last around 6 weeks.
Background to European Arrest Warrant
Ponsatí had already been released on bail and allowed to keep her passport after handing herself in to the police on Thursday 14 November, following the issuing of an arrest warrant.
This current warrant is the third attempt to extradite the former minister for her role in the 2017 Catalan independence bid, after she left for Belgium with former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and other government members, before resuming her post as a professor at St Andrews University.
Aamer Anwar, the lawyer representing Clara Ponsatí in Scotland, had previously said outside the court in November: ‘Sedition is a 16th century offence created by kings and queens to stop a backlash from ordinary people wanting their rights.’
Spain’s Supreme Court has also issued new extradition requests against former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, as well as Catalan officials Toni Comín and Lluís Puig, who are all resident in Belgium.
Extradition hearings for Puigdemont, Comín and Puig will be held together in Belgium on Monday 16 December.
It is Spain’s third attempt to extradite Carles Puigdemont, with the first warrant withdrawn in December 2017, and the second accepted by Germany but only for misuse of funds and not rebellion. However, Madrid did not accept those charges and again ended up withdrawing its European arrest warrant.
It is also the third time that ministers Comín and Puig have faced an extradition request by Spain over their role in the 2017 independence bid.
Belgian authorities had originally rejected the second extradition attempt against Comín, Puig, and also Meritxell Serret in 2018 for an error in the form. Spanish judge Pablo Llarena then withdrew the request against all exiled members of the Catalan government after the German justice system refused to extradite former president Carles Puigdemont for rebellion.
Following the verdicts in the Supreme Court trial and the sentences of up to 13 years for nine former Catalan leaders for sedition and misuse of public funds, warrants have since been reissued.
The Spanish prosecutor is now asking for Comín and Ponsatí’s extradition on charges of sedition and misuse of public funds, and Puig for misuse of public funds and disobedience. The request also includes warrants for their detention should they travel to non-EU countries.
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