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Catalan politicians spied on: Spain opens an investigation into the manufacturer of Pegasus

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Seizure of a complaint filed by the lawyer of several separatist leaders, himself a victim of espionage, according to a report published in mid-April, an investigating judge of the Barcelona court decided to open a judicial investigation especially against NSO Group Technologies Limited.

This investigation aims to verify whether offenses have been committed in creating and providing the Pegasus Program to third partiesas well as actions or omissions having made it possible to contribute voluntarily and consciously spying on Catalan officials, according to a court document seen by theAFP.

According to the lawyer behind the complaint, Me Andreu Van den Eynde, this is the first investigation opened in Spain against NSO since the spy scandal targeting Catalan separatists broke out.

In a report published in mid-April, the Canadian organization CitizenLab announced that it had identified 60 people from the Catalan separatist movement whose cell phones were allegedly hacked between 2017 and 2020 using Pegasus software.

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Spanish intelligence also spied on separatists

The director at the time of the Spanish intelligence services, Paz Esteban, then admitted before a parliamentary commission that 18 separatists had been wiretapped after authorization from the courts.

Weakened by this scandal, the executive sacked Ms. Esteban on May 10. The prime minister, the socialist Pedro Sánchez, also announced a reform of the intelligence services in order to strengthen judicial control on the tapping.

This spy scandal took an unexpected turn when the government announced in early May that the cell phones of Pedro Sánchez and his defense minister, Margarita Robles, had also been spied on last year using Pegasus.

Pedro Sanchez holds a red cell phone to his right ear.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s cell phone has been infected with Pegasus spyware, developed by Israeli group NSO. (Archives)

Photo: Associated Press/John Thys

The government clarified that it was a external attack, but assured not to know who was at the origin. For their part, several Spanish media have mentioned a possible involvement of Morocco.

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The NSO group is also the target of a judicial investigation in France relating to the espionage of French journalists, whose phones would have been infiltrated by the Pegasus software on behalf of the Moroccan State, according to a consortium of 17 international media. Rabat has categorically denied these accusations.

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