HUMAN rights abuses by Spanish authorities are “unprecedented” and are worsening every day, according to the St Andrews University professor who is the subject of an extradition case.

Clara Ponsati, who was seconded to Catalonia as Education Minister before the October independence referendum, said she will face the case with determination and confidence, but said she felt anguish over the fate of her colleagues who have been locked up in Spain.

“In the coming days, weeks and months I will face proceedings in the Sheriff Court to contest Spain’s extradition demand,” Ponsati wrote in the Sunday Herald.

“I face this prospect with a mixture of determination and confidence, but also with deep anxiety and anguish for the fate of my colleagues who lie languishing in Spanish prisons or face being hunted across Europe.

“I am told that Scotland has an independent judiciary, firmly committed to democracy and the respect of human rights, so of course I am hopeful that justice will prevail.

“But the abuses of human rights by Spanish authorities are unprecedented – they get worse and worse day by day.

“So, I am weary of what evil they are capable of in their relentless crusade to crush the Catalans’ will to be free.”

She said she had never “in my wildest imagination” thought she would be threatened with a lifetime in jail as a political prisoner, or a life in exile, and added: “I have always been a fiercely free person, and I am determined to remain free.

“We are taking on a Spanish Government with unlimited resources and have a long fight ahead.

“I have been overwhelmed by the support shown in Scotland, across the UK, in Catalonia and across Europe.

“This support has given me the drive, determination and spirit to take on this fight. It may be long, but I know that we are on the right side of history.”

Her remarks came as David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, urged Spanish authorities to stop pursuing the charge of rebellion against political figures and protesters in Catalonia.

He said such prosecutions could lead to lengthy jail sentences and raised serious risks of deterring “wholly legitimate speech, even if it is controversial and discomfiting”.

“Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of every free and democratic society, and it will remain so long after the current political controversies subside. I am concerned that charges of rebellion for acts that do not involve violence or incitement to violence may interfere with rights of public protest and dissent.

“International human rights law cautions that, especially in situations involving political dissent, restrictions should only be imposed when they are strictly necessary and proportionate to protect the state’s interests. I am hopeful that Spain will deploy its democratic institutions to foster space for debate and find creative tools of dialogue and reconciliation to deal with the current political situation.”

Meanwhile, former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has again called for Spanish authorities to open negotiations over Catalonia’s secession claim.

Speaking after his release from a German prison, he told reporters he hoped a German court’s decision not to extradite him on charges of rebellion showed that “dialogue is needed” to defuse the political conflict in his home country.

“I hope the situation could help ... This opens a new opportunity of dialogue.”

Roger Torrent, speaker of Catalonia’s parliament, has again proposed that jailed independence activist Jordi Sanchez be elected as the new Catalan president, a move backed by Puigdemont.

Former first minister Alex Salmond has said that Ponsati would appear in his stage show in Edinburgh and Dundee later this month. Speaking at the Tartan Day celebrations in New York, he said: “I am sure that folk in Dundee and Edinburgh will want to listen to what she has to say.”