Lawyers for former Catalan politician vow to fight on after MEPs remove immunity

Conor Riordan, PA Scotland
·2 min read

Lawyers for a politician who could face extradition to Spain have vowed to fight on after the European Parliament voted to remove her immunity.

Clara Ponsati faces a charge of sedition over her role in Catalonia’s unsanctioned independence referendum in 2017.

MEPs voted on Monday to lift the immunity of the St Andrews academic as well as the former president of Spain’s Catalonia region, Carles Puigdemont, and former Catalan health minister, Toni Comin, in a move that could pave the way for their extradition.

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Aamer Anwar, lawyer for Ms Ponsati, tweeted: “Shameful vote by @Europarl_EN giving into Spain to lift immunity of MEPs @ClaraPonsati @toni_comin @KRLS Who face extradition & political persecution for exercising the democratic will of the Catalan people-The legal battle goes on”

The Spanish government immediately welcomed the decision by the European Union’s legislature as a victory for the rule of law and against those who sought to break the north-eastern region away from the rest of Spain.

The decision is likely to extend the three-and-a-half year legal saga on the fate of the three separatists by months, if not years, since many avenues for appeal remain open before any possible extraditions.

Ms Ponsati, a University of St Andrews academic, became an MEP after five seats in the European Parliament were given to Spain when the UK left the EU in January 2019.

This afforded her and the other two – who also became MEPs – protection as members of the EU assembly.

She could be sentenced to 15 years behind bars if convicted, with nine other Catalan officials given jail sentences of between nine and 13 years for the same offence in autumn 2019.

An extradition case hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in Edinburgh last year heard there would be no point discussing the matter until the immunity issue was resolved.

The court had been expected to centre on the competency of the extradition warrant and issues surrounding dual criminality, which relate to whether the law is an offence in both countries.

A number of subsequent hearings have since been delayed.

This latest development could clear the way for that argument to be played out in court.

Meanwhile, Mr Puigdemont’s legal team is planning to appeal against losing his immunity to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

The parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee had already voted 15-8 with two abstentions last month to recommend waiving their immunity.