Formerly exiled MEP Ponsatí fails to appear at Supreme Court

Judge called for hearing after Junts politician arrested on first return to Barcelona in five years 

MEP Clara Ponsatí in the European Parliament in Brussels accompanied by MEP Carles Puigdemont on March 29, 2023
MEP Clara Ponsatí in the European Parliament in Brussels accompanied by MEP Carles Puigdemont on March 29, 2023 / Nazaret Romero
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

April 24, 2023 10:13 AM

April 24, 2023 07:27 PM

Formerly exiled MEP Clara Ponsatí did not appear at the Supreme Court on Monday morning, as her lawyer Gonzalo Boye confirmed in a statement to Judge Pablo Llarena, the magistrate in charge of referendum-related proceedings.

The text explained that Ponsatí has work to do in the European Parliament with several committee sessions scheduled for Monday, meaning that "it would be incompatible with any other appointments made hundreds of kilometers away from Brussels," and added that the politician has parliamentary immunity, meaning the judicial process should be suspended.

The lawyer also said in the letter that "we are still waiting for a resolution on several appeals that corroborate the illegality of the judicial case."

After returning to Barcelona for the first time in five years on March 28, Ponsatí was arrested after doing a press conference in the center of the Catalan capital, for not voluntarily appearing before a judge upon arrival.

She was released a few hours later and informed that Judge Llarena had called on her to attend a hearing on April 24 at 11 am to notify her of her charges formally. 

"Judge Llarena is obsessed with talking to me, something I don't share, which is why I didn't go [to the Supreme Court]," said Clara Ponsatí / Catalan News

After the 2017 Catalan education minister failed to attend the hearing, the magistrate opened a five-day period for all parties in her open legal case to have their say on what to do next. The public prosecutor may ask the court to issue an arrest warrant against her at a Spanish scale.

Asked by media at her office in Brussels why she did not appear before the Supreme Court, Ponsatí said: "I have things to do here today and, besides, Judge Llarena is obsessed with talking to me, something I don't share, which is why I didn't go."  

'Raining in Flanders'

Early on Monday morning, Gonzalo Boye said during an interview with public broadcaster TV3 that "Ponsatí is already in Brussels or on her way."

Ponsatí tweeted a picture from Belgium with the caption, "Raining in Flanders."

The pro-independence Junts politician, who was the Catalan education minister at the time of the 2017 referendum deemed illegal by Spain, faces charges for disobedience, an offense which does not carry a prison sentence.

Asked during the TV3 interview about the consequences Ponsatí could face if she does not testify in front of the Supreme Court judge, Boye replied that "nothing can happen," as Llarena "is not the judge set by law."

"Ponsatí is a person very well aware of what she is doing. It is a collective fight, and she agrees on the consequences of what Llarena may say, but for sure, it will not be legal," Boye said.

Although disobedience, the charge she now faces after Spain's recent criminal code reform, entails no prison time, Ponsatí could still be fined and disqualified from public office if tried and found guilty. 

Ponsatí crossed the France-Spain border by car around midday on March 28, catching most by surprise, before making her way to Barcelona.

Police chief defends Ponsatí arrest

The chief commissioner of the Mossos d'Esquadra (Catalan police), Eduard Sallent, defended his police force's actions in arresting Clara Ponsatí on March 28.

"The arrest took place, with the information we had, at the appropriate time," Sallent said in an interview with Catalunya Ràdio on Monday. 

Sallent said that "the police will do what the court decides" if, as turned out to be the case, the former minister did not comply with her Supreme Court summons.

Meanwhile, Ponsatí called the Mossos' actions "cowardly," as they "followed an illegal arrest warrant," she tweeted.

In Madrid, Socialists spokesperson Pilar Alegría said, following reform, Spain "now has a criminal code that meets European standards." The 2017 referendum organizers "instead of fleeing, must stand trial," she said.  

"We now have a criminal code that meets European standards," say the Socialists. "Instead of fleeing, [the 2017 referendum organizers must stand trial] / Catalan News