By Alyssa McMurtry
OVIEDO, Spain (AA) - A fugitive Catalan politician who returned to Spain for the first time in five years on Tuesday was subsequently detained.
Clara Ponsanti, 66, the former education minister of Catalonia, has been living in the UK and Belgium since moving into self-imposed exile in 2017 to avoid detention in Spain.
Since 2018, she served as a member of the European Parliament in Brussels.
Upon her detention, which was filmed by dozens of cameras, she told the police officer: “This arrest warrant is illegal.”
“He’s trying to detain a member of the European Parliament who has immunity,” she said to the crowd surrounding her.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” she then asked the police officer, who gently detained her to bring her to a courthouse, despite members of the crowd shouting for him to leave her alone.
In a press conference hours before, she said she did not return to Barcelona seeking “a pact with the government.” Instead, she said she returned to “continue the combat” and stand up for her rights.
She said she refused to go willingly to the courthouse to testify regarding the disobedience charge against her because she says the arrest warrant against her is not legal.
- Downgrading charges
The separatists hope European authorities will condemn her arrest.
Her political party, Junts per Catalunya, hailed the move as “intelligent confrontation.”
Despite her rebellious attitude, Ponsanti’s return to Catalonia comes on the heels of a legal reform that has downgraded the charges against her from sedition to disobedience. The new charge does not carry a prison sentence.
When Madrid took control of Catalonia after her government tried to unilaterally split from Spain in 2017, Ponsanti, along with several other Catalan politicians, fled to various European countries, dodging constant extradition attempts.
Some of the politicians that stayed in Spain were eventually sentenced to several years in prison for their roles in the independence push, but were later pardoned by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in 2021.
Last year, Sanchez also reformed the penal code to remove sedition and replace it with the lesser charge of disobedience, aiming to calm tensions with the separatists.