European Parliament begins investigation into Pegasus spyware as MEP hacks revealed

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By Aida Sanchez Alonso
Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont speaks at a press conference in Alghero, Sardinia in October 2021
Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont speaks at a press conference in Alghero, Sardinia in October 2021   -  Copyright  AP Photo/Gloria Calvi

The European Parliament committee charged with investigating Pegasus spyware activities began its work on Tuesday, looking into numerous cases, including accusations of spying against Hungary, Poland, and Greece.

In Spain, at least 65 people, including three Catalan presidents and four MEPs, are said to have been spied on between 2017 and 2020.

A new investigation led by Citizen Lab, a leading Canadian research group, says the Spanish authorities are most likely behind the spyware attack, which is believed to cost hundreds of millions of euros.

“While we do not currently attribute this operation to specific governmental entities, circumstantial evidence suggests a strong nexus with the government of Spain, including the nature of the victims and targets, the timing, and the fact that Spain is reported to be a government client of NSO Group," Citizen Lab stated in its report.

Dozens of pro-independence Catalan politicians and activists have been targeted by Pegasus spyware, the investigation claims.

Former president and now Brussels lawmaker Carles Puigdemont — who is calling for an inquiry at the EU level — says his wife, lawyer and many of his staff were also targets of the Pegasus attacks.

"We as MEPs, and even one of our assistants, have been spied on with Pegasus while working in this house, putting at risk the communications of the whole [European] Parliament," Puigdemont said on Tuesday.

"The Spanish state has organised a criminal plot with money from non-democratically controlled and dark sources to attack a legitimate democratic and majority political movement in the institutions and on the streets," Puigdemont added.

Madrid has denied all accusations, with Isabel Rodríguez, minister and spokeswoman of the Spanish government saying they will cooperate fully.

"The government has nothing to hide, absolutely nothing," Rodríguez said. "Therefore, the government will collaborate as much as possible with the justice system's investigation of these events if the courts require us to do so."

The software, created by the Israeli company NSO and sold exclusively to governments, penetrates devices to read texts, listen to calls and activate their microphones.