Professor Ponsati and other Catalan ministers face charges in Spain including rebellion and sedition for their role in holding an independence referendum in Catalonia in October 2017, and subsequently declaring independence. These charges are politically motivated and are an attack on freedom and democracy by the Spanish government.
Clara Ponsati was Education Minister in the Catalan government at the time of the referendum when they declared independence from Spain. Following this, she and five other ministers, including Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, fled Spain for Belgium. Many others who stayed behind were imprisoned.
It is shocking and disheartening that there are political prisoners in an EU country in the present day. If the UK extradites Prof. Ponsati, and Germany extradites President Puigdemont, they will be denying the Catalan people the right to express themselves and determine their own fate. The right to hold a referendum is one we have taken for granted in Scotland – in Catalonia, people are being prosecuted for this same action.
The Catalan government was elected with a mandate to hold a referendum on independence. These democratically elected ministers, acting on this mandate, are now facing up to 30 years imprisonment for acting on their political beliefs while representing the people of Catalonia.
The treatment of supporters of Catalan independence by Spain has been horrific and not what is expected from a democratic country. From police brutality on the streets, to the arrest of members of the democratically elected Catalan government, the treatment of the Catalan people has been completely unacceptable.
The independence of the Spanish judiciary on this matter cannot be assured, and if extradited, Prof. Ponsati and the others face inhumane treatment in violation of their human rights. Due to this, the UK judiciary are within legal grounds to reject the extradition request. I sincerely hope this happens.
It is for these reasons that other students at the University of St Andrews and I are organising a demo in support of Professor Ponsati on Monday 2nd April. If you would like to get involved, please like our Facebook page to stay updated on ways to support our professor!
Written by Stephanie Melnick, St Andrews University