LEADING human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar has assembled a top legal team for the appearance today at Edinburgh Sheriff Court of Professor Clara Ponsati, the St Andrews academic and former Catalan education minister.

Ponsati is fighting extradition to Spain on charges of rebellion and misuse of €1.6 million (£1.39m) of public funds.

On the eve of the battle, Anwar was in combative mood, attacking Spain for its decision to charge Josep Lluis Trapero, hero of the Barcelona terror attacks and former head of Catalan Police (Mossos d’Esquadra), with sedition, branding it “grotesque”. He will be accompanied in court by Gordon Jackson QC, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates and advocate Claire Madison Mitchell.

Ponsati denies the charges, which carry sentences of up to 25 years and eight years respectively.

“Clara views the charges as ‘a political motivated prosecution’ and submits that her extradition would be unjust, oppressive and incompatible with her human rights,” said Anwar.

She was also challenging the validity of the arrest warrant, which he said was “not valid and should be dismissed”.

“Clara believes that the Spanish authorities in their eagerness to criminalise the desire of the Catalan people for independence are abusing the process of the European Arrest Warrant.”

As Anwar and the legal team prepared for the fight ahead social media was awash with messages of support.

In an interview with The National, Anwar praised Trapero’s actions during the referendum, when his force adopted a softly-softly approach compared to the brutality of Spain’s National Police and Civil Guard.

He said we pride ourselves in “policing by consent” and in a democratic, civilised society, police officers are not expected to break the law simply because they were told to. The Mossos were ordered to join a brutal attack on peaceful Catalans who simply wanted to vote.

“But the fact that he stands accused of a failure to follow such orders is testimony to the courage and professionalism of this individual who was lauded by many in the aftermath of the Barcelona attacks,” said Anwar. “As somebody who has given his whole lifetime to the professional service of his people for him to be treated in such a manner is grotesque and smacks of vindictiveness.”

“Imagine if it was in this country and tomorrow Nicola Sturgeon was to call a referendum and Theresa May was to send 7000 members of the Metropolitan Police headed up by the commissioner, and the commissioner was to tell the chief constable in Scotland ‘I want you to get the batons out, I want you to get the plastic bullets out and I want you to smash up 2256 polling booths the length and breadth of this country’.

“What would we as a nation expect our police officers to do? We would expect them not to follow illegal orders, which we would see as unlawful – all police officers are entitled to use force, but it has to be reasonable, it has to be proportionate it has to be within the law. And police officers also have to obey the law. That’s what I believe this officer did and he did it with honour.

“When they take their oath it’s to uphold law and order and the rule of law is to protect the people.

“The idea that the Spanish authorities should dispense with that and operate in some Francoist manner where they believe that police officers should simply wield their batons on innocent bystanders … this isn’t in Russia or the dark days of apartheid, it’s in a modern civilised European democracy.”

Anwar was on La Rambla in Barcelona at the time of the terror attacks last August and praised Trapero’s handling of their aftermath.

“Within an hour of the attacks I spoke about the overwhelming impression I got, which was of absolute professionalism of the Catalan police… It was a horrific experience, but one could feel comfort that the Mossos were doing absolutely everything possible to keep people safe.

“That doesn’t mean when you turn the clock forward to October 1 the same public service should wield the batons on their own people. The police are not supposed to be political.

“In this country we still haven’t got over the fact that Margaret Thatcher politicised the police service and used them as weapons against the miners’ strike. That has not left the living memory and in Spain and Catalonia it still hasn’t left the living memory of the Spanish state security forces and the Spanish police being utilised as pawns by the Francoist regime.”