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Former Catalan minister 'ready to fight' against extradition to Spain

Jane Barlow/PA Wire

By Katrine Bussey, PA Scotland Political Editor

A former Catalan minister who is facing extradition from Scotland to Spain is "determined to fight", her lawyer has said.

Clara Ponsati, an economics professor at St Andrews University, is facing a charge of sedition over her role in Catalonia's unsanctioned independence referendum in 2017, and could be sentenced to 15 years behind bars if convicted.

After a fresh European arrest warrant was issued, she will hand herself in to police in Edinburgh on Thursday before appearing in court in the capital.

Her lawyer Aamer Anwar said she was "ready to fight".

Prof Ponsati was previously arrested in March 2018 and a four-week extradition hearing was expected to be heard at Edinburgh Sheriff Court last July, but a Spanish Supreme Court judge dropped the request and the warrant was formally discharged.

Mr Anwar said he had expected another warrant to be issued for Prof Ponsati after a number of Catalan politicians were jailed in Spain.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme the lawyer said: "We had always expected that once the trial - the so-called show trial of the nine Catalan politicians - had begun, that after that completed those nine individuals were recently sentenced to a total of 100 years for their involvement in the peaceful independence referendum, we always assumed after that there may be another warrant issued."

The hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Thursday will determine if Prof Ponsati is released on bail, and consider other procedural issues.

But Mr Anwar said the full extradition hearing could take eight to 12 weeks when it is heard next year.

He said: "Clara faces only a charge of sedition on this occasion, she utterly refutes that. If she is extradited and convicted Clara could face a sentence of up to 15 years.

"The defence is really one that the warrant is viewed as a systematic attempt to criminalise the fight for independence by over two million Catalans.

"It will be argued by our team that there is no guarantee of a right to a fair trial in Spain, where most of the members of the Catalan government are already in prison or exile.

"She remains resolute, she is determined to fight and she has stated repeatedly she thinks this Spanish state will never be able to crush the spirit of the Catalan people.

"She is quite ready to fight and is robust in her defence."