Clara Ponsatí vows to 'work intensely in defense of independence' on first day as MEP
Exiled former minister will face EU parliament vote on whether to lift her immunity, along with Puigdemont
There are now three Catalan MEPs in exile sitting in the European Parliament, after former education minister Clara Ponsatí spent her first day in the chamber on Monday, alongside former president Carles Puigdemont and former health minister Toni Comín.
Describing her "great joy" in being able to join her former colleagues in the Catalan government, Ponsatí pledged that all three will "work intensely in favor of our country's independence as well as of an amnesty and of freedom."
Despite threats from Spain's electoral commission that her seat would be declared vacant, the EU parliament recognized Ponsatí as an MEP after the UK officially left the European Union on January 31 and five of its seats in the chamber went to Spain.
Along with Puigdemont and Comín, the Spanish judiciary is trying to extradite Ponsatí, who now lives in Scotland where she works at a university, for her role in the government that organized the unilateral independence bid in Catalonia in 2017.
Junqueras immunity ruling
The European Parliament's recognition of all three former Catalan ministers comes after a European court ruled that the jailed former vice president Oriol Junqueras had immunity as an MEP and should have been allowed to take up his seat when in preventive detention.
On Monday, Ponsatí made reference to Junqueras, the head of the pro-independence ERC party who is serving 13 years for sedition, calling it "a scandal that the Spanish judiciary has not complied with the orders of the European court."
Ponsatí, who is expected to address the chamber for the first time on Tuesday, for the moment joins Puigdemont and Comín as a non-attached member, although the three MEPs are expected to make moves towards joining a group this week.
Also on Monday, the head of Spain's Supreme Court officially requested that the European Parliament waive Ponsatí's immunity as an MEP so that she can be tried in Spain if her extradition from Scotland, the hearings for which begin in May, is successful.