Video from press conference at the Principal Hotel, Edinburgh.
STATEMENT ISSUED AT PRESS CONFERENCE BY AAMER ANWAR ON BEHALF OF CLARA PONSATI
FOLLOWED BY THE STATEMENT ISSUED BY PRESIDENT QUIM TORRA- 11TH JULY 2018 11AM-12PM
Good Morning I would like to start by welcoming President of Catalonia Quim Torra and his delegation to Scotland.
Both myself, Clara and the President met last night and I understand this is his first visit to Scotland and it is a significant moment for Scotland in strengthening its ties with Catalonia.
I have a statement to make on behalf of my client – following which Clara will speak briefly and then the President.
I will then open it up to questions but ask you to identify yourself and the media organisation you work for.
So to begin.
My client Clara Ponsati utterly refutes the charges she faces.
Clara is an esteemed University Professor who has never committed a criminal act in her life, yet if extradited faces the prospect of spending the rest of her life in prison, up to 33 years for peacefully promoting a referendum,
Across Europe Spain stands accused of conducting desperate and politically motivated prosecutions.
Clara is accused of orchestrating violence, yet the warrant fails to ever specify a single act of violence or incitement attributable to her.
Unsurprisingly there is no mention of the actions of several thousand Spanish police and 6000 State Security Forces accused of carrying out brutal unprovoked attacks on a civilian population at over 2000 polling stations.
In a civilised democracy Police Officers are the guardians of law and order, who protect the public they serve., yet the actions of the Spanish police on October 1st has been compared to the dark days of Francoism.
We ask the Spanish judiciary if they are truly impartial why no warrants have been issued for a single Spanish police officer for their violent actions against a defenceless population.
As for the question of misappropriation of public funds for the referendum; this is a charge that Clara could face up to 8 years in prison.
It is of note however that in a ruling of 9 November 2017, the Spanish Supreme Court acknowledged that there had been no misappropriation of public funds by the Catalan government.
They classify the charge as being one that involves ‘corruption’ which is recognised as an ‘abuse of power for personal gain’, we are yet to see how that applies to Professor Ponsati.
The warrant is described as a grotesque distortion of the truth.
On Monday 2nd July the Advocate Depute (The Prosecutor from Crown Office) acting on behalf the Kingdom of Spain met with our legal team and advised that on the matter of dual criminality concerning charge 1 (rebellion) in the European Arrest Warrant, that they consider that the test can be met having regard to charges in Scotland of:
i) conspiracy to alter the constitution by criminal means;
ii) and treason.
And the charge of misappropriation of public funds still remains.
Clara Ponsati maintains her innocence of the charges and we will 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 which was democratically voted on in the Catalan Parliament democratically elected by the Catalan people.
To put the charge of Treason in context, imagine tomorrow if the First Minister of Scotland were to call a referendum and Theresa May sent in 15,000 police officers to attack voters and then imprisoned half the Scottish Government whilst issuing warrants for Nicola Sturgeon and others who fled to Europe, threatening them with over 30 years in prison for treason if convicted.
Of course that scenario is an impossible nightmare but that is the situation Catalonia faces today.
The Spanish judicial authorities stand accused of criminalising the opinions and votes of parliamentarians and ministers in the exercise of their duties and endangering the very functioning of the rule of law.
There are serious reasons to believe that the extradition to Spain of Clara would violate the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial, the right to freedom of expression, the right to freedom of thought, the right of association and the right to liberty and security.
Contrary to Spain’s, Clara Ponsati had no role in spontaneous demonstrations.
Voting within the framework of the referendum took place peacefully on 1 October 2017.
Contrary to the arguments of the arrest warrant, the gathering of citizens constitutes an exercise of their right to freedom of association and cannot be compared with an act of violence.
Around 8,000 police officers were deployed by Madrid and 6000 state security forces. The National Police and the Civil Guard violently entered the polling stations in order to prevent citizens from voting and did so using brutal and unprovoked violence on unarmed Catalans. More than 1,000 people needed medical attention.
Clara Ponsati was neither a member of a political party, nor an elected parliamentarian but an Education minister for only two and a half months and now is accused of committing the equivalent crime of Treason.
We welcome President Torra’s support for Clara Ponsati.
A true democracy guarantees the absolute freedom of expression for MPs and ministers in exercising their powers.
They must be able to speak freely, independently and without fear of any form of prosecution or punishment.
It is the sovereign right of the Catalan people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs and it can never be illegal under international law for a people to express their right to self-determination.
Spain accuses Clara of a great number of criminal acts but these are political acts protected by the right to freedom of thought, the right to freedom of expression and freedom of association.
We have a concern that if Clara is returned to a prison in Madrid that Spain cannot and will not guarantee her safety and she faces a real threat to her life whether it be from the authorities or fellow prisoners.
Of course Spain is a modern democracy which abides by the rule of law, but with over half of the Catalan government either in exile or in custody, the prosecutions are described as a politically motivated attempt to criminalise the desire of independence of more than 2 million voters.
For Spanish officials to talk of ‘decapitating the Catalan Government’ is not democratic or peaceful.
Such human rights form the foundation of any civilised democracy, yet sadly Spain appeared to many as hell bent on ripping up its image as a modern democracy with a return to its Francoist past.
President Quim Torra met with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on the 9th July and we wait with hope to see if Mr Sanchez has the courage to implement a political and peaceful solution.
At 5pm a meeting will take place with the President and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at Bute House.
And later on this evening a private meeting will take between the President, his delegation and members of the SNP, the Greens and the Labour Party and the President of the Scottish Trade Union Congress.
It is absolutely right that our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has refused to interfere in the legal process, had she done so then her government would be no different to that of Spain.
Clara’s fate lies in the hands of the Scottish judiciary who are recognised as acting impartially and are fiercely independent.
The full hearing will begin on the 30th July at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.
I would now like to introduce Professor Clara Ponsati who will be followed by President Quim Torra.
Statement by the President Quim Torra today:-
1. Arguments específics Roda de premsa amb la consellera Clara Ponsatí
En relació als presos polítics:
1. On Monday I met the Prime Minister of the Spanish Government and I told him about the unfair situation of political prisoners and exiles, including Clara Ponsati.
2. I will insist that the political prisoners and exiles are not bargaining chips, because we believe that their imprisonment is unfair and who has a problem is the Spanish justice.
3. Spanish justice is persecuting to Clara Ponsat, among others political exiles, for defended every catalan to exercise his right to vote October first.
4. Catalan independentism has made Europe to focus on what is happening in Spain and to realize that here there is still Francoism on the streets, fascist outbursts and an intolerable democratic regression at any level.
5. We would like to have Cameron’s same response when they negotiated how the Scots should exercise their right of self-determination. As Catalans, we want to have the same solutions and proposals that other Europeans have had.
6. We cannot go beyond what other European citizens have been able to enjoy in a peaceful and democratic way, which is how to solve things in the twenty-first century. Because we Catalans have to resign ourselves to not having standards of respect, plurality and democracy as other European citizens have. Is it that we are less European citizens than the Scots? Is that we have less of rights than them?
7. We will not stop until they are free.
8. We respect the separation of powers in the United Kingdom, which is why we agree with the Scottish Government about the importance of protecting the process and the independence of the legal system. A separation of power, which, as we have seen in recent months, does not exist in Spain.
The First Minister of Scotland and the President of Catalonia met at the First Minister’s official residence in Edinburgh this evening.
It was a cordial meeting aimed at strengthening the ties of friendship between Scotland and Catalonia. Both leaders discussed the challenging and complex political situation in Catalonia, and agreed that the way forward for Catalonia must be through peaceful and democratic solutions involving dialogue between the Spanish and Catalan authorities, respecting the right to self-determination of the Catalan people.
Both leaders agreed that in 21st century Europe issues of self-determination must ultimately be addressed through democratic referendums.
The terms of such referendums should be agreed between both parties and have corresponding international recognition.
The 2014 Scottish independence referendum agreed between Edinburgh and London is the best example of such a process, underlining the fact that issues of constitutional sovereignty should always be resolved through peaceful and democratic means.
Aamer Anwar & Co
Solicitors & Notaries
Extradition case of Her Majesty’s Advocate (For the Kingdom of Spain) v Clara Ponsati ( commencing on 30th July at Edinburgh Sheriff Court)