Spain still 'responsible' for Catalangate espionage despite PM's phone hacking, says Catalan government

Cabinet calls for independent investigation and for resignations

Government spokesperson Patrícia Plaja talks to the press after a cabinet meeting, March 15, 2022 (by Jordi Bataller)
Government spokesperson Patrícia Plaja talks to the press after a cabinet meeting, March 15, 2022 (by Jordi Bataller) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

May 2, 2022 02:01 PM

The Spanish government is still the "only responsible" party behind the alleged Catalangate espionage of at least 65 members of the pro-independence movement despite revelations that PM Pedro Sánchez and defense minister Margarita Robles were also targeted with Pegasus spyware, Catalan government spokesperson Patrícia Plaja said on Monday. 

Plaja, who addressed the press midday to respond to the Spanish government's announcement, said this did not exempt them from allowing for an independent investigation and from having those responsible for the espionage step down. 

The Catalan government spokesperson also blasted the Spanish government for initially denying the espionage and then making "disrespectful remarks" about The New Yorker while defending the country's intelligence services, which many interpreted as a justification for the alleged mass surveillance, before revealing that its own members had been targeted by the software.

According to Plaja, Catalan president Pere Aragonès and PM Sánchez should meet to discuss this matter sooner rather than later.

"Dialogue is a necessary tool," Plaja maintained. "But a minimum condition for this is to not be spied on."

Pro-independence camp demands “responsibilities”

Catalan president Pere Aragonès denounced the seriousness of the spyware controversy as well as Spain’s prior lack of response to the news when it was only confirmed that pro-independence figures had been affected by the cyber attacks. 

"All political espionage is extremely serious," Aragonès tweeted, before adding that the independence camp has “denounced” the espionage for days "without getting explanations from the Spanish government." 

"When mass espionage is against Catalan institutions and the independence movement, silence and excuses. Today, everything is in a hurry. We must take responsibility now," Aragonès concluded. 

Laura Borràs, parliament speaker and senior member of Junts per Catalunya, questioned the reliability of the news announced by the Spanish government that Pedro Sánchez and Margarita Robles had their devices intercepted.

“Is it evidence that you don't have to clean the sewers if you can use them?” Borràs asked, metaphorically. “Or is it a manoeuvre to go from executioners to victims?" 

The parliament speaker regretted that the Spanish government treated espionage as "a very serious matter" only when it affected more sides than only the pro-independence camp, pointing to the suggestion that Spain’s defence minister, Robles, seemingly justified the use of Pegasus last week

Oriol Junqueras, the former president of Catalonia during the time of the 2017 referendum, said that it was “clear” that the Spanish state was engaged in “illegal mass espionage predominantly against the independence movement.”

“That is why, far from alibis, we demand political responsibilities,” the former jailed politician said. “For the sake of democracy, maximum transparency is needed to clarify the facts.”

Marta Rovira, a senior official of Esquerra Republicana, responded ironically to the news: “Moncloa (where the Spanish government sits) says that Moncloa was spied on by Moncloa with Pegasus [spyware] that Moncloa has. Now, Moncloa will not take responsibility politically.”

Carles Puigdemont, the president of Catalonia during the 2017 independence push, now living in Belgium, tweeted that “Moncloa has had to wait for a Pegasus infection on the mobile phones of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense to consider it a matter of extreme seriousness and to investigate. When we Catalans denounced it, we did not deserve so much consideration.”

Puigdemont also sent his “solidarity” to the Spanish PM and defence minister for the “very serious crime” of having their devices hacked that “threatens democracy”, as well as his “maximum demands” to the pair as those “responsible” for not doing anything about the spyware controversy up to this point, when it only affected Catalan politicians. 

En-Comú Podem, Catalan allies of Podemos who are the junior partner in the Spanish government alongside the Socialists, believe that a “deep state” is behind the espionage controversies that has “started a dirty war against democracy.”

They call for a complete investigation into the Catalangate controversy and call for a "front of democratic forces" to tackle espionage. The spokesman for Catalunya en Comú, Joan Mena, said that "whoever spied did so to end a stage of dialogue" between Catalonia and Spain.