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Calls for inquiry into political espionage grow as hacking of more Catalan leaders revealed

Spain’s Intelligence Service under fire as phones of pro-independence politicians targeted by spyware

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15 July 2020 01:42 PM

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ACN|Barcelona

Calls for an inquiry into the alleged political espionage of adherents to the Catalan independence movement grow as news reports reveal the names of more politicians whose phones were targeted by government-grade spyware technology.

The most senior figure to report the hacking of his mobile phone is the speaker of the Catalan parliament, Roger Torrent, who said on Tuesday that he would talk to Spain’s defense minister over concerns that the state’s intelligence agency might be behind the operation.

"All evidence points to the Spanish state, so it could be the National Intelligence Center (CNI)", said Torrent, who added that "no one should be more interested [than the Spanish government] in finding out who is behind it and guaranteeing that the dirty war against the independence movement ends."  

The mobile phones were targeted with Pegasus software, created by the Israeli company NSO and only sold to governments to track criminals and terrorists. The spyware exploits a vulnerability in Whatsapp that can give potential access to everything from emails and text messages to the camera and voice recorder.

According to revelations by The Guardian and El País newspapers, the software was also used to spy on the Catalan MP and former European Parliament member Ernest Maragall, who called the hacking "Catalangate," the former MP for far-left CUP Anna Gabriel, exiled in Switzerland, and a member of the Catalan National Assembly grassroots group, Jordi Domingo.

Vice also ran a piece on Tuesday stating that a former NSO Group employee maintains that the Spanish government has been a client of the company since 2015.

New revelations by eldiario.es claim that the Pegasus software also targeted Jordi Puigneró, the current Catalan minister for Digital Policies, and Sergi Miquel, a close collaborator of Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan president exiled in Belgium.

All the aforementioned politicians are senior figures in the independence movement and either belong to or are linked to Catalonia’s ruling parties, Esquerra (ERC) and Junts per Catalunya (JxCat), or the anti-capitalist but also pro-independence CUP party.

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  • ERC's Ernest Maragall speaking to the press on May 27, 2019 (Guillem Roset/ACN)

  • ERC's Ernest Maragall speaking to the press on May 27, 2019 (Guillem Roset/ACN)

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