Catalan academic facing extradition draws record crowdfunding appeal

Clara Ponsatí handed herself in to police in Scotland after Spanish government issued warrant for her arrest

The crowdfunding appeal established to assist the former Catalan minister Professor Clara Ponsatí in her fight with the Spanish government against extradition is believed to have set a new record.

Ponsatí was granted bail at Edinburgh sheriff court last Wednesday after the Madrid authorities issued a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) charging her with “violent rebellion” and “misappropriation of public funds”.

She had handed herself in to the city’s St Leonard’s police station and is now formally under arrest. Her passport has been confiscated.

Moments after the issue of the EAW, Ponsatí’s lawyer, Aamer Anwar, set up an online crowdfunding appeal. “Clara came into my offices in Glasgow at 8.30am on Wednesday and we then headed for the train to take us to Edinburgh. By the time we were on the train, the total had reached almost £5,000. When we reached Edinburgh this had more than doubled. After we’d visited the police station, it had begun to climb even more steeply and when we got out of the court I was astonished to see that it had reached £200,000.

“We reached that total in 18 hours and I’ve been informed by the crowdfunding people that this is a record.”

Since then the money has continued to flow in. Anwar said: “Wednesday was a good day for us but we have a long battle ahead. We have a team of seven, including our QC, working from here and we also have people working on our behalf in London. As well as that, we have also deployed a legal team in Catalonia and Madrid. This is a fight we believe we can win and we are in it for the long haul.”

Ponsatí was invited by Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to help organise last year’s referendum – deemed to be illegal – and to help form his short-lived government before it was crushed by Madrid and its leaders arrested. She had been given leave of absence to do so by St Andrews University, where she is a professor of economics.

Anwar believes the Spanish government has miscalculated in its moves to extradite Ponsatí. “They absolutely did not want this to land in Scotland,” he told the Observer. “I suspect they were unaware of the difference in legal systems and political approach that would be adopted in Scotland as opposed to England, and believed they could rely upon the unconditional support of the British government.

“The fierce response to her extradition in Scotland is not what they were expecting but they have not even experienced what will happen when we go to court.”

A preliminary hearing into the extradition case has been set for Edinburgh sheriff court on 12 April, with a full hearing to follow on 18 April. It is unlikely to end there. If the extradition is granted, Ponsatí will have the right of appeal.

The Crown, which takes the case on behalf of the Spanish government as the arresting nation, would likewise have the right of appeal if the extradition bid were to fall.

Disquiet has also been expressed about the legal validity of the EAW in this case. Under the Extradition Act 2003, a person being extradited must be charged with a crime that is also a crime in Scots law. “Violent rebellion”, the most serious of the 56 instances of criminality for which Madrid is seeking Ponsatí’s extradition, is not included in Scots law.

Anwar added: “Our defence in court may make uncomfortable reading for the Spanish government in the full glare of international scrutiny. We are confident that the outcome will make it even more so.”


Kevin McKenna

The GuardianTramp

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