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Spain: Catalan separatists sue intelligence services

Catalan separatist deputies who claim to have been spied on via their telephone have decided to bring the matter to justice by targeting the Spanish intelligence services.

Marc Thibodeau Marc Thibodeau

The Press

The President of the Catalan Parliament, Roger Torrent, and a former regional minister, Ernest Maragall, announced Thursday that they were filing a complaint against the former director of the Spanish National Intelligence Center (CNI), Félix Sanz Roldán, who was in office at the time of their alleged wiretapping.

The approach of the two elected officials, who come from the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), follows an investigation by the daily newspapers The Guardian and El País having revealed at the beginning of the week that at least four Catalan independence activists had been the target last year of sophisticated software called Pegasus .

Several Catalan groups, including the ERC, have decried in a press release the situation and asked for the creation of a commission of inquiry to shed light on what they consider to be an “intolerable” attack in a Democratic state.

The Spanish government has denied any responsibility by insisting that the national police and the Interior Ministry did not purchase the software in question.

The CNI for its part confined itself to stressing that it displayed in all circumstances “absolute respect for the applicable laws”.

Suspicious software

The allegations of domestic espionage put in the spotlight the Israeli firm NSO Group, which allows with Pegasus remotely access all the data on a phone and activate its microphone and camera to make it a real-time monitoring tool.

The company maintains that the software is sold only to governments and must be used to counter terrorism and major crimes, but its assurances are questioned by cybersecurity experts.

PHOTO JACK GUEZ, ARCHIVES AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The Israeli firm NSO Group developed the application Pegasus , which allows remote access to all the data on a phone and activates its microphone and camera to make it a real-time monitoring tool. This software would only be sold to governments, according to the company.

Last year, Facebook launched a lawsuit against NSO Group accusing it of having used a flaw in WhatsApp in spring 2019 to infect in two weeks the devices of 1400 users.

The Citizen Lab, a research group specializing in the University of Toronto, looked into the matter and was able to identify more than a hundred members of civil society, spread over four continents, last year. , who had been the target of this strategy.

The continuation of the exercise made it possible to highlight the fact that the Catalan deputies had also been targeted, but does not make it possible to formally determine who was behind the interception.

Puidgemont denounces authoritarianism

The responsibility of the central government is beyond doubt in the minds of the ex-president of the Generalitat de Catalunya Carles Puidgemont, who is the subject of a Spanish extradition request because of his role in the holding in 2017 of a self-determination referendum considered illegal by Madrid.

PHOTO FRANÇOIS LENOIR, REUTERS ARCHIVES

Carles Puigdemont, separatist politician and ex-president of the Generalitat de Catalunya

Spain has been using authoritarian methods for a long time. I myself was the target of a tracking device under my car which is the subject of an investigation by the Belgian authorities.

Carles Puidgemont, separatist politician, to Vice

Joan Ramon Resina, professor at Stanford University who closely follows political developments in Catalonia, says he is “surprised that people are surprised” that illegal wiretapping may have targeted the Catalan independence movement. .

It would not be the first time that such practices have been used and the CNI may have carried them out without the central government being informed, he said.

The analyst does not think that the alleged wiretapping is likely to have a major impact at this stage on the relations between Madrid and the ruling coalition government in Barcelona.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was reappointed in January thanks to the abstention of ERC deputies and then undertook to reopen discussions with the Catalan government to resolve the constitutional crisis, “ but virtually nothing has happened since, “notes Resina.

M. Sánchez said, he said, the differences of view between the two ruling coalition parties in Catalonia, the ERC and Together for Catalonia (JxCat), on the objectives to be reached to delay the process.

Legal proceedings continue during this time against several independence activists, including the president of the Generality of Catalonia Quim Torra, of the JxCat, who is threatened with dismissal for having delayed removing independenceist emblems from the facade of the seat of government regional during an electoral campaign.

Pedro Sánchez “would like to be able to negotiate only with the ERC, which is more moderate in its demands,” concludes the professor from Stanford.

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