Over 200 Spanish mobile phones possibly targeted by Pegasus spyware

Puigneró reports Budó's and Calvet's mobile phones were also hacked

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In July 2021, a consortium of 17 media outlets published a list of over 50,000 phone numbers in over 45 countries that had been potentially flagged for Pegasus surveillance by, they noted, authoritarian regimes. The Guardian was one of these media, and this Wednesday it has published that, in the case of Spain, the selected mobiles were over 200, by a client, it adds, which could be Morocco.

According to the newspaper, the inclusion of over 200 Spanish mobiles does not indicate that they were all eventually hacked, but points out that the client was active in looking for possible targets. Morocco has denied having used Pegasus on foreign leaders in the past, claiming journalists investigating Pegasus developer NSO were "incapable of proving [the country had] any relationship". But analysis of the data, it notes, shows Morocco had also singled out a list of French officials as candidates for possible surveillance, including French President Emmanuel Macron.

For its part, the company responsible for Pegasus, NSO, argues that its spyware is only sold to government clients to investigate crimes and terrorism, and denies that it was used against Macron. The institutional crisis between Spain and Morocco began when Pedro Sánchez's government allowed Polisario Front leader Brahim Gali to be treated for covid in Spain. Morocco responded by allowing 8,000 people to enter Ceuta illegally.

The Spanish government has so far refused to make any accusations for spying on President Sánchez, Defence Minister Margarita Robles and former Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya. This Tuesday the opposition joined forces to make Sánchez appear in parliament and speak on the issue.

Budó and Calvet were also spied on

In parallel, the European Parliament will debate this afternoon on the issue of espionage, which came to light a few weeks ago after The New Yorker broke the story of mass surveillance of the Catalan independence movement, which affected about 65 people, some of them MEPs. In an interview on El matí de Catalunya Ràdio, vice-president Jordi Puigneró explained that former Catalan ministers Meritxell Budó and Damià Calvet, as well as his own chief of staff, Ivan Monforte, were also victims of espionage "sometime before 2020". Thus, they are added to the list, and according to Puigneró "there will be more".