A surprise return after five years in exile. The Catalan MEP for Junts, Clara Ponsatí, has returned to Barcelona today, as ElNacional.cat has learned, thus ending the exile that began in October 2017 and that has led her to live these years in Scotland and Brussels. The pro-independence Ponsatí, who was Catalan education minister at the time of the 2017 independence referendum, entered Catalonia via Perpinyà, by car. With the repeal of the Spanish crime of sedition, Ponsatí, like the general secretary of ERC, Marta Rovira, is now only prosecuted for a crime of disobedience and the Spanish arrest warrant against her is thus limited to enforcing the obligation to appear before the court to testify.
Another former minister, Meritxell Serret, had already returned from exile in recent months - the trial against her at the Catalan High Court is scheduled for this Wednesday - and so has former CUP deputy Anna Gabriel. However, both did so by appearing before the Supreme Court on Madrid, while Ponsatí has limited herself to appearing in Barcelona, without appearing before the judge. In her case, she has the added status of MEP, which in theory should allow her to move freely around Europe.
A charge of disobedience
On January 12th this year, with the entry into force of the reform of the Penal Code, the investigating judge of the case against the pro-independence politicians, Pablo Llarena, issued a new resolution in which he set down that Ponsatí would only be prosecuted for an alleged crime of disobedience. Unlike Carles Puigdemont, Lluís Puig and Toni Comín, who are also being prosecuted for misuse of public funds, the crime of disobedience is not penalized by a prison sentence, but rather, disqualification from holding public office, so the judge cannot order international or Spanish arrest of the ex-minister. For this reason, in the resolution the judge specifies that her detention would be "only for the purpose of taking her statement".
Four days after judge Llarena issued his interlocutory order, Ponsatí's lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, submitted a demand that the investigating judge withdraw the arrest warrant against Ponsatí in the Spanish state, even if it were only for taking her statement, and asking the judge to inform the European Parliament that he was no longer seeking a waiver of her immunity from prosecution as an MEP. In the text, Boye argued that "she has not even been formally summoned" to appear in court to give her statement, nor has a "less onerous" measure been attempted against her.
In the case of Ponsatí, in addition, a further factor is constituted by the doubts raised about the extent of the parliamentary immunity that she, Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín have as MEPs. The defence lawyers of the exiled Catalan politicians hope to know shortly the decision of the European General Court (EGC) in this regard. Until the General Court rules, the European Court of Justice agreed in May 2022 to provisionally suspend the effects of the waiver of immunity approved in the European Parliament and to return to the three Junts MEPs their immunity from the threat of arrest. In fact, a few months earlier, in September 2021, Puigdemont had been arrested in Alguer, on the island of Sardinia.
VIDEO (ACN): Clara Ponsatí says she is very happy to once again be able to stand in "southern" Catalonia - south of the French border - after only being able to enter northern Catalonia for many years. "I am content, I am awaiting to see what happens in the next few hours and days."