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BARCELONA: Catalan politician Clara Ponsati, a leading figure in her region’s failed bid to gain independence, on Tuesday returned to Spain from five years in exile and was briefly arrested despite having immunity as an MEP.

The 66-year-old was released by a judge and summoned to appear at the Supreme Court on April 24 over “prosecution for a crime of disobedience,” the court said.

Ponsati does not risk prison, however, owing to legal reforms in Spain, where Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has adopted a strategy of dialogue with the moderate separatists and pardoning those involved in the independence bid.

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, Ponsati and fellow MEP Toni Comin led efforts by Catalonia’s separatist regional government to stage an independence referendum in October 2017 despite a ban by Madrid. The vote was marred by police violence.

Several weeks later, the Catalan administration issued a short-lived declaration of independence, triggering a political crisis that prompted Puigdemont and several others to flee.

“I have come to denounce the systematic violation of our rights,” Ponsati told a news conference in Barcelona, a few hours after entering Spain from France by car.

Puigdemont denounced her “illegal arrest” on Twitter.

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