Lawyers of Catalangate espionage victims to sue NSO Group
Boye: Spain "will not be able to justify the legality of something that is illegal" in Europe
The lawyers of the Catalangate espionage victims announced on Friday that they, like Whatsapp in the United States, intend to sue Israeli cybersecurity company NSO Group, the creator of Pegasus spyware, for being the "co-author" of what they consider to be an illegal attack on members of the pro-independence movement.
Lawyers Andreu Van den Eynde and Gonzalo Boye – Catalangate victims themselves – as well as Antoni Abat and Benet Salellas addressed the press from the University of Barcelona's historic building, in the city center, assessing the situation in the wake of The New Yorker and Citizen Lab revelations that at least 65 pro-independence politicians, activists, and their close associates' phones were hacked.
According to Citizen Lab researcher John Scott-Railton, "solid circumstantial evidence" points to perpetrators within the Spanish government.
Boye: Spain "will not be able to justify the legality of something that is illegal"
Boye, who works for Junts politicians including former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, said there would not be a single lawsuit but rather multiple ones focusing on the particularities of individual cases.
While showing no faith in the lawsuits' success in Spain, especially after former Supreme Court judge and current Spanish defense minister Margarita Robles' remarks, Boye said he thought the European judiciary would respond favorably: Spain "will not be able to justify the legality of something that is illegal."
According to him, his attorney-client privilege had been violated. "I encourage all journalists who have been in contact with any of the 65 Catalangate victims to look into whether they themselves were spied on," Boye added.
Van den Eynde: Assange warned of phone hacking
"After being a defense lawyer for years, it is hard to be a victim," Van den Eynde said.
The lawyer of Esquerra politicians, including Barcelona councilor Ernest Maragall and former parliament speaker and current business minister Roger Torrent, who The Guardian revealed in 2020 to be spyware targets, Van den Eynde said he believed Catalangate would be a "turning point" in Europe, and cited the United States' decision to blacklist NSO Group as mounting pressure on the company.
Van den Eynde also recalled how WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had warned of the potential of cell phones to be hacked by states, and called on the general public to advocate for investigations into these practices.
Salellas: pro-independence movement not a terrorist organization
Salellas, who works for far-left party CUP and civil society group Òmnium, explained that NSO Group would be sued for inadequate for failing to ensure that human rights – namely the right to intimacy – were not violated.
"It's impossible to argue that the pro-independence movement is a terrorist organization," and therefore worthy of surveillance, Salellas charged.
The lawyer also cited the infamous case of judge Baltasar Garzón, who was disbarred for wiretapping the phones of people investigated as part of the Gurtel corruption scandal.
Abat: "Being in pro-independence is no reason to be spied on"
"Being pro-independence is no reason to be spied on," Antoni Abat, the lawyer of members of the Catalan National Assembly grassroots group, argued.
"This constitutes the violation of fundamental rights in a democratic state," he said.