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Scotland Scottish court grants bail to Catalan politician facing jail in Spain

A CATALAN politician facing jail over the recent independence referendum was bailed by a Scottish court today.

Clara Ponsati was the Spanish region’s education minister but she fled to Belgium, along with Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, when the administration was sacked by the Spanish government last autumn. Catalonia had declared independence from Spain following a referendum which Madrid declared to be illegal.

Ms Ponsati later returned to a teaching post at St Andrews University, which she had previously held before entering front-line politics.

A European arrest warrant for a number of Catalan ex-ministers was reissued on Friday and Ms Ponsati handed herself in to police in Edinburgh this morning.

The hearing before Sheriff Nigel Ross lasted less than 10 minutes this afternoon in a courtroom crowded with press and supporters.

The court heard that Ms Ponsati does not consent to extradition. The application for bail was not opposed by the Crown. Granted bail, Ms Ponsati was asked to surrender her passport.

Her lawyer said she views the charges, which could attract a jail term of up to 30 years, as political persecution and believes that her human rights cannot be guaranteed in Spain.

Students at St Andrews protested against her arrest outside the university’s students union today evening. A bigger demonstration will be held on Monday from 7pm.

Aamer Anwar, a celebrated rights lawyer and Glasgow University rector, who is representing Ms Ponsati, said: “Clara remains defiant, resolute and is determined to fight back.”

Mr Anwar said his client was “truly humbled by the unconditional support from students, colleagues and the principal at St Andrews University,” and expressed thanks to the Scottish public and politicians for their support. “Scotland has been a true friend to Catalonia in her darkest hours,” he added.

The ex-minister’s counsel is likely to argue that rebellion is not a crime in Scotland, though the offence of treason could be deemed sufficiently similar. The case could also be struck out on grounds that it is politically motivated.

Mr Puigdemont, heading back to Belgium from a trip to Finland, was arrested by police in Germany on Monday. After a preliminary hearing, he will need to appear in court again to before a judge will determine whether he should be extradited.

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