Amnesty International calls for changes to Spanish intelligence law after Pegasus spyware cases

Human rights group urges thorough investigation into spying on Catalan pro-independence politicians

Director of Amnesty International Spain Esteban Beltrán
Director of Amnesty International Spain Esteban Beltrán / Pol Solà
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

February 2, 2024 01:14 PM

February 2, 2024 01:17 PM

The director of human rights group Amnesty International Spain has called for a review of the law governing Spain's intelligence agency, the CNI. 

Esteban Beltrán urged a thorough investigation into the Pegasus spyware cases and irregular investigations by the Spanish National Police against Catalan independence supporters.  

He stressed that the activities of the CNI should be subject to "better judicial control" to prevent these cases from escaping "impunity". 

Beltrán considered it necessary for the courts to investigate whether there were police investigations "aimed at repressing and violating the human rights of the Catalan independence movement, with the illegal and unlawful use of the police".

Catalan president spied on with Pegasus

Last week, it was revealed that the Spanish National Intelligence Agency (CNI) used Pegasus spyware to spy on Catalan president Pere Aragonès when he was vice president of the Catalan government in 2020. 

The CNI wiretapped the phone of the current Catalan president with a court order, claiming that he was the head of the pro-independence activist group Committees for the Defense of the Republic (CDR), which Aragonès has strongly denied. 

The CNI first requested to spy on Aragonès in July 2019, and later asked for two extensions: one in October amid the protests following the verdict against the leaders of the 2017 independence referendum, and another in January 2020, during Pedro Sánchez's negotiations to become PM. 

The revelation was made public after the Spanish government agreed on January 16 to release documents related to the case, now in court, in which Pere Aragonès claims that he was illegally spied on with Pegasus. 


Catalangate is the name given by Citizen Lab, a research group based in the University of Toronto that reports on high-tech human rights abuses. They are responsible for launching an investigation into the espionage of several Catalan pro-independence politicians, activists and their close associates.   

It is "the largest forensically documented cluster of such attacks and infections on record," according to the New Yorker article published on April 18 of last year.   

Among the targets were Catalan president Pere Aragonès and every former Catalan president leading back to 2010.  

Victims' phones were infected using spyware programs Pegasus and Candiru. The former is known internationally for its previous infections of renowned people, such as murdered Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi and members of Rwanda’s opposition party.  

Candiru, founded by former NSO Group employees, is not as well known but performs a similar function as Pegasus

Learn more about Catalangate by listening to our Filling the Sink podcast episode from May 2022 and read a more in-depth article on the consequences of the espionage scandal