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Report: Spanish intel had court approval to use Israeli spyware on Catalan separatists

This studio photographic illustration shows a smartphone with the website of Israel's NSO Group which features 'Pegasus' spyware, on display in Paris, on July 21, 2021. (Joel Saget/AFP)
This studio photographic illustration shows a smartphone with the website of Israel's NSO Group which features 'Pegasus' spyware, on display in Paris, on July 21, 2021. (Joel Saget/AFP)

MARID — Spain’s intelligence service CNI had court approval to spy on Catalan separatist figures, the El Pais newspaper reports citing sources close to the agency.

The spying targeted selected individuals and was not “massive” as alleged, according to the unnamed sources cited by the paper.

Canada’s Citizen Lab group said yesterday at least 65 people linked to the Catalan separatist movement had been targets of Pegasus spyware after a failed independence bid in 2017.

Elected officials, including current and former Catalan regional leaders, were among those targeted by the controversial spyware made by Israel’s NSO group.

Pegasus infiltrates mobile phones to extract data or activates a camera or microphone to spy on their owners.

Citizen Lab, which focuses on high-tech human rights abuses, said it could not directly attribute the spying operations, but that circumstantial evidence pointed to Spanish authorities.

But the intelligence service sources cited by El Pais say the number of Catalan separatists who were spied on was “much lower” than Citizen Lab’s figure, and the CNI “always acted under the control of the courts.”

Contacted by AFP, the CNI wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Spain’s central government on Sunday said it would launch inquiries. The government has not denied nor confirmed whether it uses Pegasus or similar spyware, saying only that any surveillance is carried out under the supervision of judges.

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