The Catalan regional government and leading Catalan separatists take the findings of the organization Citizen Lab seriously, according to which there has been a massive attack against them with the Israeli spy program Pegasus in recent years.

According to an investigation by the Canadian organization "Citizen Lab", from which the American magazine "New Yorker" and the Spanish newspaper "El País" quote, the mobile phones of a total of 63 Catalan separatists, including three heads of government and several lawyers, are said to be equipped with the software to have been infiltrated.

The Citizen Lab is a University of Toronto research group specializing in cybersecurity and human rights.

Hans Christian Roessler

Political correspondent for the Iberian Peninsula and the Maghreb based in Madrid.

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Not all attacks were therefore successful.

According to these findings, a Pegasus attack is also said to have occurred in the office of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The program of the Israeli company NSO is normally only made available to government agencies.

However, the software had been discovered in more than 40 countries in the past few years.

It was used against numerous critics of the regime and members of the opposition, but also against the French government, allegedly right up to President Emmanuel Macron.

The Catalan regional president Pere Aragonès, who says he was also affected, speaks of a "very serious attack on democracy and fundamental rights".

It is a "massive surveillance action" against a peaceful civil movement that is "shameful and unjustified".

According to Citizen Lab investigations, former regional presidents Quim Torra, Carles Puigdemont and Artur Mas were also under surveillance.

Today's MEP Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium and whose environment was said to have been spied on by Pegasus, accuses Spain of a "dirty war".

First allegations already in 2020

Among those attacked were several convicted separatists who had been pardoned last year.

Three of her lawyers and at least one journalist are said to have also fallen victim to the action, which began after the illegal referendum on Catalan independence on October 1, 2017 and lasted until at least 2020.

In the report entitled "Catalangate", which alludes to the American Watergate scandal, "Citizen Lab" leaves open who could be behind the attacks.

The Spanish police and the government in Madrid had assured “El País” in 2020 that they did not own the program.

At the time, the Spanish secret service CNI answered evasively to a request and emphasized that the legal requirements were being observed.

The first allegations were made in July 2020.

At that time, the then President of the Catalan regional parliament, Roger Torrent, accused the Spanish government of “spying on political opponents”.

The newspapers "El País" and "Guardian" had reported that in addition to Torrent, three other Catalan separatists had been spied on with the help of Pegasus.

This is the former Catalan foreign affairs commissioner Ernest Maragall, who ran for mayor in Barcelona in 2019.

In addition, the members of the radical CUP party, Anna Gabriel, who fled to Switzerland, and another separatist activist are said to have been the targets of the attacks discovered by "Citizen Lab".

“Citizen Lab” claims to have found references to Pegasus in the office of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

However, according to press reports on Tuesday, the responsible Cyber ​​Security Center has not yet determined which device was attacked.

Between 2020 and 2021, five attacks using spyware were also discovered on British Foreign Office phones.

The EU Commission now wants to take action against the use of Pegasus.

Europe could do a much better job of convincing the rest of the world of the value of data protection if such software weren't used in the EU, said EU Commission Vice President Vera Jourova in an interview in April.