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Catalan academic continues battle against extradition

Clara Ponsati and her lawyer Aamer Anwar with supporters outside Edinburgh Sheriff after her preliminary hearing. Ms Ponsati, the former Catalan education minister, is fighting extradition to Spain. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 15, 2018. See PA story LEGAL Ponsati. Photo credit should read: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

A former Catalan education minister has returned to a Scottish court as she continues her legal battle against being extradited to Spain.

Professor Clara Ponsati "utterly refutes" charges of violent rebellion and misappropriation of public funds over her role in Catalonia's controversial independence referendum last year.

If extradited and convicted of the charges in Spain, her lawyer says she could face a total sentence of up to 33 years, sparking fears the 61-year-old could spend the rest of her life in a Spanish jail.

The St Andrews University academic attended a preliminary hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, at which her legal team lodged its draft legal submissions ahead of a full hearing set to begin in July.

A further preliminary hearing was set down for June 12, with Sheriff Nigel Ross QC saying he hoped further information on the legal arguments for both sides would be available to the court by that stage.

Speaking outside court after the hearing, Prof Ponsati's solicitor Aamer Anwar said she intends to fight the extradition on "many grounds," including the claim it is a "politically motivated prosecution".

"To extradite Clara would be unjust, oppressive and incompatible with her human rights," he said.

The lawyer went on: "Throughout Europe, Spain stands accused of abusing the arrest warrant as a tool of political repression.

"The courts can never be a solution or alternative to political negotiation.

"Spain today faces its greatest crisis since the dark days of General Franco.

"Without the unconditional release of all political prisoners and withdrawal of the European Arrest Warrants, there will never be a resolution to this crisis."

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