The full extradition hearing for Clara Ponsatí, the former Catalan education minister now living in Scotland, is scheduled to start on 11 May in Edinburgh. But it could be halted due to her forthcoming appointment as an MEP. A preliminary hearing is fixed for 5 March.
Ponsatí is fighting extradition after a new European arrest warrant was issued by the Spanish authorities on charges of sedition for her role in the October 2017 Catalan independence referendum. The Spanish Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan leaders involved in the referendum to up to 13 years in prison for sedition in October.
However, Aamer Anwar, the lawyer representing Ponsatí, said outside the court in Edinburgh this week that his client is set to become an MEP because of the UK’s departure from the European Union on 31 January.
‘When the UK leaves the European Parliament on January 31, its MEPs will lose their seats,’ Anwar explained.
‘At present, Spain is set to be awarded five extra seats,’ said Anwar. ‘If that is so, Clara Ponsatí is on the list to be one of the five MEPS and will become an MEP shortly after January 31 and therefore she will have immunity. The Spanish authorities ought to withdraw the warrant against Clara if and when she becomes immune – this is not likely to happen.’
Spain’s Electoral Authority (JEC) has confirmed that Ponsatí will become one of Spain’s MEPs.
Earlier this month the European Parliament recognised the immunity of Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín as MEPs, and they were allowed to take their seats in the EU chamber.
However, the EU Parliament has since officially received a petition from the Spanish Supreme Court to waive the immunity as MEPs of Puigdemont and Comín, and the issue has been forwarded to the parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee.
The EU Parliament has also recently announced that the former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras’s mandate as an MEP ‘terminated with effect on 3 January 2020,’ after Spain’s Electoral Authority (JEC) vetoed the jailed leader.
‘When Clara becomes an MEP an assessment will be required to be carried out as to how it will affect the warrant proceedings – especially if once again Spain shows no respect for the rule of international law,’ said Anwar.
Anwar also accused Spain of misusing state power and said that it was seeking ‘the extradition of Clara for political purposes rather than the prosecution of crime’.
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.
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