Carles Puigdemont appeared this Thursday before the European Parliament to denounce, along with other Catalan MEPs, that he was a victim of the espionage of pegasus and to demand answers about the involvement of the Spanish State in the so-called ‘CatalanGate‘, as the scandal is known for the infiltration of the mobile phones of up to 65 political leaders, lawyers and activists in favor of the independence of Catalonia. “It is true that the Pegasus attacks cannot be attributed to someone in particular and that is what generates panic, because we are absolutely defenseless,” said the Catalan ‘ex-president’.
In the European parliamentary commission that investigates the surveillance against its members, Puigdemont and the MEPs Toni Comin, Jordi Soler Y Diana Riba They have agreed to point out that more than half a year after an investigation by the Canadian organization CitizenLab uncovered the case, they still do not know who ordered their devices to be ‘hacked’ and their privacy violated. privacy. The manufacturer of this ‘software’, the Israeli NSO Groupassures that it only sells it to governments.
The ‘CatalanGate’ scandal forced the director of the National Intelligence Center (CNI), Paz Esteban López, to admit that 18 people had been spied on under judicial authorization from the Supreme Court, 11 of whom were from Puigdemont’s direct entourage. Shortly after, she was removed from office. What happened to the other cases? Under what legal cover were the cell phones of the other victims accessed, if any? These are some of the questions that the Catalan MEPs seek to clarify and for this they have asked the commission to pressure both NSO and the Government of Spain.
During the more than two hours that the parliamentary commission has been extended, the Catalan MEPs have denounced that, according to the forensic analysis of CitizenLab, they were spied on at key political moments. Comín’s cell phone was ‘hacked’ in January 2020, shortly after being admitted as a member of the European Parliament with immunity to circulate within the EU – “something that the Spanish State still does not respect” – and shortly before organizing the pro-independence meeting held in Perpinyà.
Riba’s was on two occasions: once in the middle of the trial of the leaders of the ‘process‘ and another during the days when he used his cell phone “to discuss my partner’s defense with the lawyers (Raul Romeva) and the political rights of Oriol Junqueras” when he was imprisoned but also elected as an MEP.
The Catalan MEPs have also denounced that Spain has not created an investigation commission to clarify what happened and have pointed out that it is a case of “political espionage” that supposes a “betrayal of the values and principles of the EU“Already in 2020, a journalistic investigation led by The Guardia and El País uncovered that Pegasus had been used to tap the phone of the then ‘president’ of the Catalan Parliament, Roger Torrentas well as other pro-independence figures such as Ernest Maragall or the ‘cupaire’ anna gabriel.
Pegasus allows its clients to infect their victims’ mobile phones to gain access to all their telecommunications and even allows them to activate both the device’s camera and microphone to turn it into a spying tool. Everything, without the victim being aware of it, as the MEPs have confirmed. “I had no indication of an abnormal functioning of my mobile and I found out by chance that I had been spied on, which suggests that the cases we know of are just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. Jordi Solermember of ERC and vice president of the Green group in the European Parliament.
The succession of international scandals regarding the use of this espionage program forced the European Parliament to organize a commission to investigate its impact. In recent months, they heard the testimony of journalists and activists whose privacy was violated in almost every corner of the continent, but they had not yet heard from the victims who work as democratically elected political representatives in the European chamber.
Pegasus is infamously known for being used to spy on the highest profile political leaders, such as the Spanish president. Pedro Sanchez or the French Emmanuel Macron, but especially for being used in dictatorships and autocracies around the world to monitor, persecute and repress political dissidence and journalists or activists critical of the system. NSO’s client countries include Saudi Arabia, Mexico, India, Rwanda, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.