CLARA Ponsati, the former Catalan government minister facing extradition from Scotland, is to be held personally responsible for every single injury sustained by members of the Spanish security forces during violence at the independence referendum, the Sunday Herald has learned.

Spanish state prosecutors want to hold Ponsati, who is also a St Andrew's University professor, culpable for all injuries suffered by police on the grounds that she was responsible for the operation of polling stations. Most of the violence during the Catalan independence referendum was directed at civilians by police and other security forces. Spain was condemned by human rights organisations for the violence. Ponsati insists she has committed no crime.

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According to details in the international warrant for the 61-year-old’s arrest, seen by the Sunday Herald, the Spanish government claims Ponsati, a former education minister in the Catalan government, was ultimately responsible for the welfare of 6,000 police officers and security forces involved in scuffles on October 1 last year because she was tasked with “ensuring the availability of the polling stations to be used to hold the referendum”.

This means Ponsati – who is chair of economics at St Andrews and who served as a Catalan Government minister for only three months after taking a sabbatical from her university role – could be held accountable for injuries she played no physical part in.

The warrant cites one officer being “hit on the forehead with a set of keys”, “pushing, kicking and spitting” towards officials, “multiple insults”, one officer being “attacked with a chair” and damage to police vehicles and equipment amounting to €17,242.

The academic is formally wanted under charges of “rebellion” and “misappropriation of public funds” – crimes which could see her jailed for more than 30 years.

Ponsati, who is currently on bail, said: “In my wildest imagination I never thought I would be threatened with being incarcerated for a lifetime as a political prisoner, or that my only alternative would be to face a lifetime in exile from my beautiful Catalonia.

“My whole life has been dedicated to the pursuit of academic excellence, I have never committed a criminal offence let alone orchestrated a violent rebellion.”

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Spanish authorities had ruled Catalan plans to hold the vote were illegal, and warned authorities not to proceed with the highly-charged referendum last year. In Ponsati’s arrest warrant Spanish prosecutors claim that a “large number of citizens resisted the efforts of the police which … materialised in a number of acts of violence that injured different officers and caused damage to their equipment”.

However, a report from Amnesty International in February, said: “Spanish security forces that were ordered to prevent the holding of the Catalan independence referendum used unnecessary and disproportionate force against demonstrators, injuring hundreds of them. This included evidence of police beating peaceful demonstrator."

Ponsati appeared in court in Scotland last month and a subsequent crowdfunding appeal to support her impending battle with the Spanish authorities reached more than £200,000 within days. St Andrews students have rallied in support of her, organising demonstrations in her defence.

Ponsati will have her next court hearing this week and is a facing a costly and lengthy battle with the Spanish Government, which is pursuing six international arrest warrants over the 2017 referendum.

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After the referendum – which returned a 92 per cent vote in favour of independence – former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont fled the region. He was later taken into custody in Germany but released earlier this month as authorities there examined Spain’s extradition request. A number of former Catalan officials are already in custody in Spain.

According to Aamer Anwar, Ponsati’s lawyer, Spain risks damaging its global standing over the affair.

“Clara faces allegations of violent rebellion and misappropriation of public funds and, if convicted, this esteemed professor with no criminal record potentially faces up to 35 years in prison,” he said.

“Spain accuses Clara of a great number of criminal acts but, according to the Catalans, these are political acts protected by the right to freedom of thought, the right to freedom of expression and freedom of association.

“Such human rights form the foundation of any civilised democracy, yet Spain appears hell bent on ripping up its image as a modern democracy with a return to its dark Francoist past.”

There have been widespread protests both in Catalonia and internationally demanding the release of those facing charges, but Madrid has held a firm line on the crisis. In the aftermath of the independence vote, Spanish President Mariano Rajoy imposed direct rule on the region and forced fresh elections in a bid to squash the separatist mood.

Spain claims the referendum was unconstitutional and Rajoy has said the former Catalan government’s actions amounted to “attacks on democracy”.



She is an esteemed academic with a career stretching over 35 years – the same length of time she could face in prison if convicted of the accusations against her.

After growing up in Barcelona and graduating in economics in 1980, Ponsati travelled to the US to complete a PhD in economics at Minnesota, funded by the Bank of Spain and the Caixa-Fulbright Scholarship. She also spent time at Princeton before returning to Barcelona in 1989.

An illustrious career then followed for Ponsati – who counts hiking, listening to classical music and opera, and socialising with family and friends among her hobbies – with stints at the University Autònona de Barcelona, the Institut d’Analisi Economica (CSIC) and visiting positions at universities in California, San Diego and the University of Toronto.

She became a member of former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont’s cabinet during a July 2017 reshuffle when some officials feared the risk of remaining in government during the referendum period.

When the Spanish authorities dissolved the Catalan Government in the aftermath of the referendum in October 2017, Ponsati first went to Belgium – as did Puigdemont – before returning to Scotland last month, where she was served with the international arrest warrant.

Ponsati is married to a professor based in France, and is a mother of two children – a son who is deceased and a son who lives in Barcelona. Most of her family, including her 92-year-old mother and three of her four siblings, still live in Barcelona.

You can find Clara Ponsati's crowdfunding page here: