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Ex-Spanish ministers could be cited in Ponsati case

Former Catalan minister Clara Ponsati is fighting extradition to Spain on rebellion charges.

Clara Ponsati: Ex-minister at the SNP's spring conference in Aberdeen.
Clara Ponsati: Ex-minister at the SNP's spring conference in Aberdeen. PA

Lawyers for Clara Ponsati could call former Spanish government ministers to court during her battle against extradition.

The former Catalan education minister's legal team are considering citing ex-ministers from Mariano Rajoy's recently-ousted administration as witnesses when the full hearing gets under way in Scotland later this year.

Her solicitor said they could be asked to comment on "controversial comments" said to have been made about Ponsati's case.

Aamer Anwar spoke following a procedural hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

During the hearing it emerged that the Crown and the academic's legal team are drawing up a list of experts to give evidence during the four-week hearing scheduled for the summer.

'We're instructed to consider citing to our court ex-ministers from Rajoy's regime.'
Lawyer Aamer Anwar

Outside court, Mr Anwar said: "We're instructed to consider citing to our court ex-ministers from Rajoy's regime to expand on their controversial comments that fall within the ambit of victimisation and political persecution."

Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez was recently sworn in as Spain's prime minister after he successfully ousted predecessor Mr Rajoy in a no-confidence vote.

Ponsati is being sought by the authorities in Madrid on charges of violent rebellion and misappropriation of public funds over her role in Catalonia's controversial independence referendum last year.

Her legal team said her prosecution is politically motivated and warned the 61-year-old could face up to 33 years in prison in Spain.

'The Crown has confirmed that it accepts rebellion is not covered by the box-ticking exercise of corruption in the framework of the extradition treaty.'
Lawyer Aamer Anwar

Mr Anwar said of Tuesday's hearing: "The Crown has confirmed that it accepts rebellion is not covered by the box-ticking exercise of corruption in the framework of the extradition treaty.

"Her Majesty's Advocate, acting on behalf of the Kingdom of Spain, has had since March to confirm what crime would have been committed in the law of Scotland and this has yet to be clarified.

"Our position remains that we cannot see what crime known to the law of Scotland has allegedly been committed by Professor Clara Ponsati."

John Scott QC, for the Crown, earlier told the court a little more time was needed to consider the issue of what crime or crimes would be covered in Scotland.

Edinburgh: Ponsati and her lawyer Aamer Anwar outside court ahead of previous hearing.
Edinburgh: Ponsati and her lawyer Aamer Anwar outside court ahead of previous hearing.

He added that witnesses were still being identified "on both sides of the table".

Prof Ponsati was excused from attending Tuesday's hearing before Sheriff Nigel Ross QC.

Gordon Jackson QC, representing the academic, said the team had consulted with various experts in England and had been visited by a Spanish solicitor.

He said: "We have now identified approximately 14 experts from academia, to practitioners, political commentators, constitutional law experts and non-governmental organisations."

They are being asked about their availability and their willingness to give evidence, with a list expected to be drawn up before the next hearing, the court was told.

He added that the team may also seek to bring ministers from Spain to court "to deal with certain issues".

A further procedural hearing has been scheduled for July 5.

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