Exiled Catalan minister calls for support

By Niall O'Gallagher
BBC Scotland political correspondent

media captionClara Ponsatí is returning to work as professor of economics at St Andrews University

A former Catalan minister who has returned to Scotland after fleeing Spain said "all democratic governments" should condemn the imprisonment of her former colleagues.

Clara Ponsatí was education minister in the Catalan government when it declared independence from Spain in October.

She fled to Brussels with former leader Carles Puigdemont but has now returned to the University of St Andrews.

Prof Ponsatí said she would be sent "straight to jail" if she went home.

Spain's central government took direct control of Catalonia and sacked officials, following the region's banned independence referendum.

image copyrightAFP/Getty Images
image captionFormer Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and Prof Ponsatí in Brussels at the start of February

Ms Ponsatí escaped to Belgium from Spain along with Mr Puigdemont and three of his former ministers days after the independence declaration in October.

International arrest warrants were issued for all five but they were later withdrawn.

They face charges of rebellion and sedition and risk arrest if they return to Spain.

Four other Catalan leaders, including the former vice-president, Oriol Junqueras, remain in prison for their part in October's independence vote, which is considered illegal by the Spanish authorities.

image captionThe Catalan protesters refer to the jailed politicians as political prisoners

Speaking to BBC Scotland, Prof Ponsatí said "Every democratic government that thinks of itself as such should condemn that there are political prisoners in Spain.

"It's a democratic outrage that in Western Europe we have people in prison for their political opinions."

image captionEnric Millo said no-one was in prison for their opinions

But the Spanish government's delegate in Catalonia, Enric Millo, has defended the imprisonment of the Catalan leaders.

He said: "Nobody is in prison for their opinions.

"Someone can be in prison for their actions not for their opinions.

"Nobody likes that there are people in prison. But everyone has to be responsible for their actions".

Prof Ponsatí was director of the school of economics and finance at St Andrews from the beginning of 2016 until she took up her role as Catalan education minister in July 2017. She is now working back at the university.

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