Extradition case against Catalan MEP suspended in Scotland

Lawyer for Clara Ponsatí says case is in ‘stalemate’ until issue of immunity in Spain is settled

A court has suspended the extradition case against Clara Ponsatí, a Catalan economist living in Scotland, because she has immunity from prosecution after becoming an MEP.

The Spanish courts issued extradition proceedings against Ponsatí, a professor at St Andrew’s University, for alleged sedition because she was an education minister when Catalonia’s government held an unlawful independence referendum in 2017.

Ponsatí’s lawyers told Edinburgh sheriff court on Thursday that Ponsatí had immunity from prosecution because she was now an MEP, winning a seat in the European parliament after Spain was given extra parliamentary seats when the UK left the EU on 31 January.

The sheriff, Nigel Ross, agreed to suspend the case against her until the European parliament ruled on an application from Spain to suspend her immunity and that of two other Catalan nationalists who also became MEPs after Brexit, Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan president at the time of the referendum, and Toni Comín.

Puigdemont and Comín are living in self-imposed exile in Belgium because they also face arrest if they return to Spain.

The hearing on Thursday was originally arranged before Ponsatí became an MEP to hear legal arguments on the competency of Spain’s extradition warrant and on dual criminality – whether the Spanish offences were also illegal under UK law.

John Scott QC, a solicitor advocate appearing for the crown, said Spain had applied for Ponsatí’s immunity to be waived in February and that it would take about four months for a decision to be made.

The full extradition hearing had been timetabled for May but Ross said the hearing would be suspended until 18 June to see what happened with the immunity question in the European parliament.

Gordon Jackson QC, Ponsatí’s lawyer, told the court the Spanish government had accepted she had immunity from prosecution in Spain because she was an MEP, but had refused to withdraw or suspend the extradition warrant.

“We’ve agreed that it would make absolutely no sense whatsoever to keep going with this until that immunity issue is sorted,” Jackson told the court. “We seem to be in a kind of stalemate until that gets sorted.”

Ponsatí, whose teaching duties at St Andrews have been cut back heavily since she became an MEP, could face a 15-year jail sentence if found guilty of sedition. Nine other Catalan officials were given jail sentences of between nine and 13 years for the same offence in autumn last year.

Contributor

Severin Carrell Scotland editor

The GuardianTramp

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