MEP warns EU that Spain's foreign minister may have breached law in sharing extradition screenshot

In an official letter, Diana Riba argues that Josep Borrell committed "serious negligence" by posting classified document and calls for inquiry

Josep Borrell is under pressure following the accusations (by Alan Ruiz)
Josep Borrell is under pressure following the accusations (by Alan Ruiz) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

November 8, 2019 12:01 PM

A Catalan MEP warned the EU authorities on Friday that Spain's acting foreign minister may have breached the law by sharing a classified extradition document on Twitter, while also infringing the presumption of innocence of an exiled former Catalan minister.

In a letter to the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the President-designate of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, MEP Diana Riba points out that Josep Borrell posted a screenshot of the document that he later deleted.

The post in question was a screenshot of a request by the UK's Sirene office asking Spain for more information "before taking the decision on the European Arrest Warrant, which was issued by Spain seeking to extradite Ms. Clara Ponsatí."

The Spanish judiciary issued the warrant earlier this week, asking the UK authorities to begin the extradition of Ponsatí, who works as a university professor in Scotland, who is wanted in Spain on the charge of sedition for her role in the unilateral independence bid in 2017.

Initially, the Sirene office, which handles such matters, released a statement refusing to process the extradition, saying the warrant was "disproportionate under UK law," but later rectified and said the hold-up was that the order was "lacking essential information."

Borrell highlights UK's rectification

On Thursday, Borrell, who is also the commissioner-designate for the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, shared the document in order to highlight the fact that the UK authorities had rectified their initial statement.

However, in her letter, Riba argues that under EU law, "a minister should not have access to the SIRENE document, nor publish restricted information or personal data of individuals on social media," something she says qualifies as "serious negligence."

Calling Borrell's actions "extremely worrisome and unacceptable behaviour for a commissioner-designate," Riba goes on to reference the various EU regulations and directives that show that the foreign minister may have breached the law.

Riba's ends by calling on the EU to "urgently open an investigation into Mr Josep Borrell and make public the findings," and to "dismiss the appointment of Mr Josep Borrell for the position of High Representative," if it is proven that he misused "confidential information."

Rejection of the warrant

The Sirene office rejected the arrest warrant for Ponsatí on Wednesday, arguing that the order "does not currently provide sufficient detail of the nature of the offence." while "it also lacks a description of the time and place at which the offence was committed."

The statement also said that "the request must also show a clear connection between the offence and the named individual," and informed the Spanish authorities that it will not detain Ponsatí on the basis of the warrant until the "essential information" is provided.

The refusal of the British authorities to go ahead with Ponsatí's extradition process came the same day that her lawyer released a statement saying that the former minister had decided to postpone reporting to Scottish police on Thursday.

Ponsatí's lawyer, Aamer Anwar, said in the statement that "there appears to be glaring contradictions contained in a 'rambling' warrant," and he added that "the warrant has now been returned to Spain seeking clarification."