Former Catalan government member given bail in Scotland
Madrid/Edinburgh — A former member of the Catalan government that tried to declare independence from Spain turned herself in to Scottish police after a judge in Madrid ordered her detention on a European warrant.
Clara Ponsati, head of education policy in Carles Puigdemont’s government, handed herself in at an Edinburgh police station on Wednesday morning.
She was later granted bail at the Sheriff Court and told to surrender her passport. German highway police detained Puigdemont on Sunday as he attempted to drive from Finland to Belgium and he is now being held in jail on remand while a judge considers Spain’s request to return him to Madrid to face prosecution for rebellion.
The bid to bring Puigdemont and Ponsati, an economics professor in Scotland, back to Spain means the legal crackdown on Catalonia’s secession drive is now being played out on a European stage.
Puigdemont’s arrest on Sunday sparked a riot in Barcelona that resulted in about 100 people seeking medical attention and prompted sporadic protests including blockades of Catalan highways. The Catalan parliament passed a motion on Wednesday backing the right of Puigdemont and other separatist leaders to become regional president even while in jail.
The government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said the regional parliament must now focus on electing a viable candidate who is not under prosecution and that it will keep emergency powers to govern Catalonia in place until it does so.
Puigdemont and members of his circle face trial not because of their ideas but because of their serious acts against the constitutional order, government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said on Tuesday.
The bid to bring Ponsati to Spain to face trial has caused an outcry in Scotland, which held its own, legal, independence referendum in 2014, when 55% to 45% voted to remain in the UK. Ponsati is an economics professor at the University of St Andrews, which has said it is "deeply concerned by recent developments, their motives and potential consequences".
A small group of demonstrators gathered outside the court in Edinburgh on Wednesday to protest against the Spain extradition request.
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon said: "We strongly oppose the Spanish government’s decision to seek the arrest and imprisonment of independence-supporting politicians."