Fugitive Catalan separatist leader Clara Ponsatí released after being arrested in Spain

Fugitive Catalan separatist leader Clara Ponsatí released after being arrested in Spain

Ponsatí returned to Catalonia after five years of exile in Scotland and Belgium, despite an outstanding arrest warrant.

Pro-independence Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) MEP, Clara Ponsatí, has been released after being arrested on Tuesday for several hours in Barcelona, where she was giving a press conference.

Earlier this week she returned to Catalonia after more than five years of exile in Scotland and Belgium, despite the arrest warrant issued by the Spanish Supreme Court over a failed independence bid for Catalonia.

Hours after her release, Ponsatí flew to Brussels for a European Parliament meeting but must appear before court on 24 April and be constantly trackable by Spanish authorities.

The MEP was serving in the Catalan government as a regional education minister when it declared independence from Spain in October 2017.

She faces charges of disobeying the law for helping stage the ilegal independence referendum.

Previously she faced charges of sedition, which would have meant time in prison, but the recent reform of the Spanish penal code by the socialist government no longer classifies sedition as a crime.

Following this, the Spanish Supreme Court revised the indictments of referendum organisers who have not yet been tried and ruled that Ponsatí only faces a charge of civil disobedience.

As this is a non-jailable offense, authorities said Ponsatí would never have been arrested if she had appeared in court as soon as she arrived in Spain.

After being taken by the Mossos d’Esquadra, Catalonia’s regional police force, she tweeted that she was “ilegally arrested”.

The former Catalan leader also argues that she could not be arrested due to the provisional immunity she has because of her status as a Member of the European Parliament.

Spain’s Supreme Court rejects this saying the charges against her and other Catalan politicians who fled Spanish justice in 2017, Carles Puigdemont amongst them, date from before they were elected to the body.

Her return to Spain comes at a key moment, just two months before regional elections. Unity within the pro-independence political parties was shattered last year when the regional coalition collapsed.

While Esquerra Republicana (the Republican Left) still heads the regional government and has held negotiations with Spain’s socialist government on resolving the dispute, Junts per Catalunya has lost political influence in Catalonia.

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