By Lynsey Bews, Political Reporter, Press Association Scotland
Catalonia’s president is to visit Scotland next week to meet Nicola Sturgeon and a former minister from the region facing extradition, her lawyer has said.
Clara Ponsati is being sought by the Spanish authorities on charges of violent rebellion and misappropriation of public funds over her role in the controversial Catalan independence referendum last year.
President Quim Torra, who backs independence for the region, was sworn in by Catalonia’s parliament in May.
He is due to arrive in Scotland on Tuesday following a meeting with Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez on Monday, according to Prof Ponsati’s lawyer Aamer Anwar.
He will meet with Prof Ponsati before joining the First Minister at her official residence, Bute House in Edinburgh, on Wednesday, Mr Anwar said.
Mr Torra’s visit will follow the latest procedural hearing for Prof Ponsati’s case at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Thursday this week.
It comes ahead of a four-week hearing scheduled to take place in the summer.
Prof Ponsati’s legal team, who describe the prosecution as “politically motivated” by Spain, say she could face a total sentence of up to 33 years if she is sent there and convicted of the charges, raising fears the 61-year-old could spend the rest of her life in jail.
Her team maintains that the condition of “dual criminality” – the issue of establishing equivalent charges in Scots law – is not fulfilled, and a European arrest warrant should not be executed.
However Mr Anwar said the Advocate Depute, acting on behalf of Spain, has advised she faces the equivalent charge of treason in Scots law.
He said: “Clara Ponsati maintains her innocence of the charges and our instructions remain to robustly defend her from extradition to Spain.
“Clara regards it as surreal that she is now accused of treason, when the Spanish state blames the Catalan government for executing a law that was voted on in the Catalan Parliament elected by the Catalan people.
“From the very beginning we have submitted that the condition of dual criminality is not fulfilled in Scotland, and the European arrest warrants should not be executed.”
On the meeting between the First Minister and Mr Torra, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “As part of Europe, Scotland has a close relationship with the people of Spain and Catalonia.
“The First Minister regularly meets and hosts leaders visiting Scotland and looks forward to the meeting with the President of Catalonia in Edinburgh to discuss issues on how our two countries can continue to work together.”
The spokesman said the meeting was not about Prof Ponsati’s case.
He added: “Ministers have made clear our profound regret that the Spanish government has not proceeded by way of dialogue with Catalonia’s political leaders and that the issue is now, instead, subject to a judicial process.
“The fact that Scotland’s justice system is obliged to act – and will act – in accordance with the law in relation to extradition requests does not change those views.
“Scottish Ministers have no role in the determination of European Arrest Warrants, and no powers to intervene with decisions made by Scotland’s independent judicial system.”
A Crown Office spokesman said: “In extradition cases in Scotland, the Crown is required by statute to act on behalf of the requesting state or territory.
“Once proceedings are active, any question as to the progress of the case is a matter for the court. As this case is active, it would not be appropriate for the Crown to comment further.
“All proceedings are open to the public and press.”
Pic by (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)