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Catalan president to meet First Minister in Edinburgh

President Quim Torra will also meet Clara Ponsati, who faces extradition to Spain.

By STV News

Published 04 Jul 2018.

Catalonia's president will visit Scotland next week to meet Nicola Sturgeon and a former minister from the Spanish region who faces extradition.

Clara Ponsati is being sought by the Spanish authorities on charges of violent rebellion and misappropriation of public funds over her role in the 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 next Tuesday following a meeting with Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez on Monday, according to Ms Ponsati's lawyer Aamer Anwar.

Mr Torra will meet with Ms Ponsati before joining the First Minister at her official residence, Bute House in Edinburgh, on Wednesday, Mr Anwar said.

His visit will follow the latest procedural hearing for Ms Ponsati's case at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Thursday.

It comes ahead of a four-week hearing scheduled to take place in the summer.

Ms 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 back 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."

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."

A Scottish Government spokesman said the meeting with Ms Sturgeon was not about Ms Ponsati's case.

He added: "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."

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