The European Union [UE] has the opportunity to take the initiative and protect the fundamental rights of its citizens following the “Catalangate”, the massive espionage of the Catalan leaders. The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto (Canada) has discovered that the Pegasus surveillance software, a spyware developed and sold by the Israeli company NSO Group – originally designed for law enforcement to track down criminals and terrorists – has been used by at least 45 states, democratic or autocratic, to spy on political opponents. The largest documented cluster of this type of abuse in Europe has been identified in Catalonia, where 65 phones were found to have been targeted with Pegasus between 2017 and 2020.
It includes elected officials – including three former Catalan presidents and the current president – regional ministers and members of the Catalan Parliament and the European Parliament, as well as journalists, civil society activists and even family members. .
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In addition, renowned international lawyers, who defend Catalan civil servants who ended up in Spanish prisons, were spied on before and during their trial. Their cell phones were infected with Pegasus.
Justification by the Spanish government
According to surveys, this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are still hundreds of potentially infected devices in Catalonia that have not yet been scanned. The two years of research detailed in Citizen Lab’s “Catalangate” report indicates that “strong circumstantial evidence suggests a link to Spanish authorities”.
In fact, it is hard to imagine that anyone else would target spyware specifically on these Catalan personalities who have one thing in common: they are all openly in favor of Catalan independence. Indeed, they recommend modes of action identical to those of Scotland and Quebec, namely the organization of a referendum in favor of independence, binding but peaceful.
Read also: Pegasus: dozens of elected officials and members of Catalan civil society targeted by spyware
The President of Catalonia, Pere Aragones, is one of the victims of the spyware hack. He said it was “an extremely serious attack on fundamental rights and democracy”. The former Catalan president, now a member of the European Parliament, Carles Puigdemont, urged the leaders of the European executive to “hold Spain to account”.
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