Professor Clara Ponsati, a former Catalan education minister and a prominent figure in the 2017 independence referendum of Catalonia, has returned to Barcelona for the first time since fleeing Spain four years ago.
Ponsati, who is currently a professor at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, arrived at Barcelona’s El Prat airport on Wednesday where she was greeted by hundreds of supporters waving Catalan flags and banners.
Ponsati faces charges of sedition and misuse of public funds in Spain for her role in the 2017 referendum, which was declared illegal by the Spanish government and courts. She left Spain shortly after the referendum and moved to Belgium with other members of the Catalan government led by Carles Puigdemont. She later moved to Scotland, where she was arrested in 2018 under a European arrest warrant issued by Spain. However, the warrant was later withdrawn by the Spanish Supreme Court.
Ponsati’s return to Barcelona comes after the Spanish government announced last week that it would grant pardons to nine Catalan leaders who were jailed for their involvement in the 2017 referendum. The decision has sparked controversy and protests in Spain, with some critics accusing the government of betraying the rule of law and others praising it as a gesture of reconciliation and dialogue.
Ponsati said that she decided to return to Barcelona to show solidarity with the pardoned leaders and to demand amnesty for all those who are still facing prosecution or exile for their political views. She also said that she was not afraid of being arrested or extradited, as she believes that the European courts will protect her rights.
“I am here to defend democracy, to defend the right of self-determination of the Catalan people, and to demand freedom for all political prisoners and exiles,” Ponsati said in a press conference at the airport. “I am not a criminal, I am a Democrat.”