Aragonès, among the 65 independence supporters spied on with a program available only to governments

The telephone of the president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, was infected in 2020 by the Israeli cyber espionage system Pegasus, as detailed this Monday The New Yorker based on data from an investigation by the Citizen Lab organization, a group of cybersecurity experts at the University of Toronto.

According to the analysis of Canadian experts, at least 65 phones belonging to Catalan politicians, lawyers and activists and their entourage were spied on or attempted to be hacked with Pegasus or other spyware. Among them, collaborators of former President Carles Puigdemont, such as his lawyer Gonzalo Boye or Joan Matamala, as well as one of his assistants in the European Parliament and his wife, Marcela Topor. In Boye’s case, his phone was attacked up to 18 times between March and October 2020, and in one of them the attempt managed to access the terminal.

Pegasus is a powerful hacking and espionage tool that can turn your target’s phone into a recorder of all their activity. It is capable of remotely activating the microphone, camera or GPS at the attacker’s request and sending them everything they record, as well as accessing messages, photos or any file stored on the device.

The company that created it, NSO Group, declared bankrupt, claims that it only sells the Pegasus program to legitimate governments to be used to fight crime and terrorism. However, its trace has been found on the phones of activists, politicians, opponents of authoritarian regimes and journalists around the world.

Canadian experts emphasize that never before have they encountered so many victims in an espionage case. The 65 spyware targets among pro-independence fighters far exceed previous reports of Al Jazeera (36 victims) and dissidents in The Savior (35 victims).

In statements to The New Yorker, Aragonès, whose telephone was spied on in 2020, has demanded “transparency” from the Spanish authorities so that they reveal which government agency commissioned the spyware. This Monday, through Twitter, Aragonès has urged the Government to give explanations “immediately” and “go to the end”. “We are facing a new GAL, a digital version”, Puigdemont has intervened in the same social network.

Citizen Lab does not point to any specific organization as being responsible for the espionage, although it highlights that its investigation suggests “a link” with the Spanish authorities. For his part, the founder of the application values ​​that the use of technology by Spain would be “legitimate”.

The list of the 65 people linked to the independence movement spied on includes both front-line politicians and aides or people close to them. There are politicians from all parties (ERC, Junts, PDeCAT, CUP and PNC) as well as leaders from Òmnium and the ANC. Among them, eight attacks on Joaquim Torra’s phone stand out while he was president of the Generalitat between 2018 and 2020, as well as on Artur Mas once he was out of the Generalitat.

In addition, the politicians of Junts Albert Batet, Antoni Comín, Elsa Artadi, Joan Ramon Casals, Joaquim Jubert, Jordi Sanchez, Josep Rius, Laura Borràs, Meritxell Budó, Miriam Nogueras are listed as hacked; those of ERC Meritxell Serret, Marta Rovira and Josep Maria Jové; those of the CUP Albert Botras, David Fernàndez and Carles Riera; as well as Òmnium and ANC members Jordi Bosch and Elisenda Paliuze; Jordi Cuixart’s wife, Txell Bonet; or Bildu politicians Arnaldo Otegi and Jon Iñarritu.

In the case of the Catalan separatists, the motives of the Republicans Roger Torrent and Ernest Maragall; the cupaire Anna Gabriel and the ANC activist Jordi Domingo already suffered attacks with the Israeli program in 2019. The investigation opened in a Barcelona court has failed to shed light on who commissioned the hacking of Torrent and Maragall’s phones, who suspect that behind would be the National Intelligence Center (CNI).

President Aragonès, together with Vice President Jordi Puigneró, accompanied by the whole Government, will appear this Tuesday at 4.30 pm in the Palau de la Generalitat to assess the mass espionage of pro-independence leaders, so the usual press conference will not be held after the meeting of the Executive Council.

At the same time, Puigdemont, Junqueras, CUP deputy Carles Riera and the presidents of the ANC, Elisenda Paluzie, and of Òmnium Cultural, Xavier Antich, as well as the former UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression David Kaye and the representative of Citizen Lab John-Scott Railton, will offer a press conference this Tuesday at the European Parliament to announce the measures that the independence movement will adopt in this case.

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