Catalan academic facing extradition from Scotland granted bail

Clara Ponsatí, the Catalan academic facing extradition from Scotland to Spain for alleged sedition, has been granted bail by a court in Edinburgh pending a full hearing in April.

Ponsatí appeared in the dock at the city’s sheriff court flanked by custody officers after she arrived at a police station in Edinburgh on Wednesday to be formally arrested and served with a European arrest warrant issued by judges in Madrid.

Her lawyer, Claire Mitchell, told the court that Ponsatí faced charges of rebellion and misusing €1.6m in public funds for her role in the Catalan regional government, which organised an illegal independence referendum last year.

The 18-page arrest warrant listed 56 specific claims and blamed her in part for violence against 6,000 Spanish police officers.

Mitchell said Ponsatí would vigorously resist the extradition, but her bail application was unopposed by Scottish prosecutors representing the Spanish courts.

Catalan leaders

The Scottish government has stopped short of supporting Catalonia’s independence but insists that the region be allowed to conduct a referendum, which is illegal under Spain’s constitution.

Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish government’s external affairs secretary, wrote to Spain’s ambassador to the UK, Carlos Bastarreche Sagües, on Tuesday, protesting at the use of a European arrest warrant in a political dispute.

Ponsatí has been named by the Spanish courts as a fugitive from justice after briefly serving as an education minister under Carles Puigdemont in the regional Catalan government. She is one of five senior figures in Puigdemont’s team who fled Spain after his government was removed from office.

Highly regarded at St Andrews, she had just finished a three-year term as head of the university’s school of economics when Puigdemont recalled her to Barcelona to be his new education minister – a job she held for just four months.

Ponsatí is little known in Catalonia and few had heard of her until she fled to Brussels with Puigdemont last October.

Her predecessor, Meritxell Ruiz, was one of three ministers purged from Puigdemont’s cabinet because they were unwilling to back the proposed referendum. Officially the three left for personal reasons.

Two police officers who were accompanying Puigdemont at the weekend when he was detained in Germany as he travelled by car from Helsinki to Brussels were arrested on their return to Spain on Wednesday.

Spain’s national court has opened an investigation into whether Carlos de Pedro López and Xabier Goicoechea, both serving members of the Catalan police force, are guilty of concealment or of assisting Puigdemont in evading arrest.

Puigdemont was detained under the European arrest warrant in the northern German province of Schleswig-Holstein. The German authorities have 60 days in which to reach a decision on the extradition request, which Puigdemont opposed during a hearing on Monday.

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