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Catalan separatist MEP Clara Ponsatí released after arrest in Spain

Catalan separatist MEP Clara Ponsatí released after arrest in Spain

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Clara Ponsatí, a Catalan separatist and MEP, was released after being detained for several hours Tuesday in Barcelona, following years of evading an arrest warrant from the Spanish Supreme Court over a failed independence push.

Ponsatí, 66, was the education minister in the Catalan government when the region declared independence from Spain following a 2017 referendum for secession, which Spanish judges deemed to be illegal. She has been living in exile in Scotland and Belgium ever since, after Spain’s top court issued an arrest warrant accusing her of the crime of disobedience for her role in organizing the referendum.

She was arrested by Catalonia’s autonomous police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, while wearing her European Parliament badge, after traveling to Spain for the first time since fleeing the country. The MEP tweeted that she was “illegally” arrested in Barcelona. The supreme court had withdrawn the charge of “sedition” that carried a jail sentence, according to Spanish press agency EFE, however, she still stands accused of “disobedience.”

Ponsatí immediately challenged the legality of her arrest. Local media later reported that she was released, but was told to attend a hearing on April 24.

“I’m an MEP and I have immunity in the whole of the European Union, but it’s only in Spain that it’s not recognized,” she said at a press conference prior to her arrest, EFE reported.

Ponsatí, who worked as a professor of economics and finance at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland after leaving Spain, became an MEP in 2020 and does not belong to a political group in the European Parliament. She is part of the Together for Catalonia party, created by fellow MEP-in-exile Carles Puigdemont, who led the Catalan regional government at the time of the referendum.

A spokesperson for EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola said she had received a request for defense of immunity from Ponsati. “We are examining all the legal issues surrounding this case. Any possible course of action will only be guided by that consideration and nothing else,” the spokesperson said.

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