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Clara Ponsatí: Scotland drops extradition proceedings against Catalan MEP

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By Euronews with AFP
Former Catalan education minister Clara Ponsati at a February media conference at the European Parliament in Brussels
Former Catalan education minister Clara Ponsati at a February media conference at the European Parliament in Brussels   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Olivier Matthys
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A Scottish court has dropped extradition proceedings against Catalan pro-independence activist and MEP Clara Ponsatí.

Ponsatí is one of three MEPs wanted in Spain on "sedition" charges related to the failed 2017 Catalonia independence bid.

But the Edinburgh court said it no longer had jurisdiction to order her extradition because she had moved to Belgium.

The decision ends more than three years of proceedings in Scotland but leaves the door open for a new extradition hearing in Belgium, where she now resides following her election to the European Parliament.

At the hearing on Thursday, Judge Nigel Rosse said that Ponsatí had notified the Scottish court in May that she had left the UK.

"The court has no jurisdiction in this case," he said, "we cannot extradite someone who is not here."

Ponsatí was the former education minister in the Catalan government after the region's unilateral declaration of independence in 2017, which Madrid considered illegal and unconstitutional.

When extradition proceedings began. she was professor of economics at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

But Ponsati has been a Member of the European Parliament in Brussels since 1 February 2020, the day after the UK left the European Union.

The MEP has previously said that the proceedings against her were "revenge on the part of Spain".

Ponsati’s solicitor Aemer Anwar said after the hearing that “the full case still remains to be heard at the European Court of Justice.”

He said that "no rational argument has been presented by Spain which justifies the criminalisation of its citizens who wish to peacefully argue for a different form of government, or simply the right to self-determination"

In March, the European Parliament voted to lift the immunity of the three MEPs, including pro-independence leader Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín.

Catalonia's secession attempt triggered a deep political crisis in Spain, which the new coalition government of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has promised to try to resolve through negotiations.

Spain has handed out jail terms between nine and 13 years to nine other Catalan leaders for their role in the independence ballot.

But last month, PM Sanchez pardoned the pro-independence leaders, and they were released from prison after serving sentences of between three-and-a-half and four years.

A government decree still means that the former prisoners will not be able to hold public office until the end of their original sentences and they will return to prison if they break Spanish law again.