Case 22

Clara Ponsatí

Education minister takes up exile foreseeing an unfair trial should she ever return to Spain

Clara ponsatí, Catalan education minister:

‘If Brussels does not take action, they will be accomplices of this violation of human rights.’


On 1st October 2017, a referendum on independence was held in Catalonia. The Spanish police broke into the Catalan Department of Education in Barcelona, which was one of the polling stations during the referendum held that day. The education minister, Ms Clara Ponsatí, told the police officers that they were not allowed in. However, the police officers ignored the command of the education minister and confiscated a ballot box, computers and her personal Ipad. Moreover, Ms. Ponsatí was pushed and thrown to the ground by the police officers. Ms. Ponsatí states that the Spanish police officers showed a violent attitude throughout their performance. Two other people had to be assisted by doctors and they were taken to hospital by ambulance. After the police left, the Department of Education building was reopened and used as one of the polling stations throughout the day. Ms Ponsatí spent all day in the Catalan Department of Education and only left the building to cast her vote in Sant Cugat, her hometown.


Clara Ponsatí had been working as the director of the School of Economics and Finance at the University of Saint Andrews (Scotland), since January 2016. In July 2017, she was appointed as the Catalan government’s education minister.

She served the Catalan government briefly but she claimed to be the person in charge, together with the President of the Catalan Government Carles Puigdemont, of the keys that opened the schools which were going to be used as polling stations on the day of the referendum. The fact that Ms Ponsatí took full responsibility for the opening of the polling stations, freed the school headmasters from any possible legal claim.

The outcome

On October 30th 2017, Clara Ponsatí moved to Brussels with President Carles Puigdemont and three other cabinet members: Lluís Puig, Antoni Comín and Meritxell Serret. She was elected again in December 2017 when new elections were held but she refused to accept her seat on January 28th 2018. She left Brussels in March and moved to Scotland where she continued with her duties at the University of Saint Andrews.


On March 24th 2018, the Spanish judge Pablo Llarena issued a European Arrest Warrant which was dropped by the same judge on 19th July 2018, before the Scottish court could issue a verdict. Along with other Catalan leaders, she had been accused of rebellion and misappropriation of public funds over the independence referendum. However, Ms Ponsatí has argued that the charges against her are politically-motivated and she has claimed she would not receive a fair trial if she returned to Spain.


Clara Ponsatí was chosen as the Person of the Year in 2018 by the Scottish newspaper The National. She has participated in various political acts as well as conferences in the UK. In January 2019, for instance, she was asked to participate in a talk in the London School of Economics and in June 2018 she attended the SNP’s Spring Conference together with her lawyer, Mr. Ameer Anwan. Moreover, she can move freely around Europe and she has travelled and attended conferences in many European countries.

Violated laws

  • The Spanish Constitution states (Article 10.2) that the laws regarding fundamental rights will be interpreted in compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international treaties on the matter. Spain signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1977 and it was included in the Official State Gazette -BOE- number 103, published on 30th April 1977 (pages 9,337 to 9,343).
  • Article 15 of the Spanish Constitution guarantees physical integrity.


On the ancient treason law, BBC News (in English):

On the withdrawal of the arrest warrant, BBC News (in English):

On the day when the directors of the Catalan schools handed the keys to their schools to Clara Ponsatí and Carles Puigdemont (in Catalan):

Clara Ponsatí, chosen as Person of 2018 by The National, El Nacional (in English):

On the 1st October 2017 at the doors of the Department of Education, La Vanguardia (in Spanish):

On the 1st October 2017 at the doors of the Department of Education, VilaWeb (in Catalan):

On Clara Ponsatí’s career, Diari de Girona (in Catalan):

Podcast. London School of Economics and Political Science, ‘What Now? The Political and Judicial Future of the Catalan Independentist Movement’, January 2019 (in English):

Video. Clara Ponsatí and Aamer Anwar at the SNP Spring Conference 2018:


Human Rights Watch: “Spain: Police Used Excessive Force in Catalonia”


Amnesty International: “Spain: Excessive use of force by National Police and Civil Guard in Catalonia”


Praga group. Report on the violations of the 1950 European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) in Catalonia on 1st October 2017 and in the aftermath.


Spanish Magna Carta


International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights


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