A year after the international scandal caused by a press investigation accusing Morocco of a vast enterprise of espionage via the Pegasus software, the French part of the investigations was entrusted to an examining magistrate.

The Paris prosecutor's office confirmed to AFP information from a source close to the file, according to which its "cyber" section had opened a judicial investigation on Friday into this file described as "sprawling" by a magistrate.

The investigation will cover many potential offenses, including criminal association, invasion of privacy or fraudulent use of "automated data processing systems", some of which are implemented by the State.

The Paris prosecutor's office had opened an investigation in July 2021 into the espionage of French journalists, including the infiltration of telephones by the Pegasus software on behalf of the Moroccan State, which disputes it, after an investigation published by a consortium of 17 international media. 

Pegasus, considered a “weapon”?

This group revealed that the Pegasus software, designed by the Israeli company NSO Group, would have made it possible to spy on the numbers of at least 180 journalists, 600 politicians, 85 human rights activists and 65 business leaders. from different countries.

NSO, regularly accused of playing into the hands of authoritarian regimes, had assured that its software was only used to obtain information against criminal or terrorist networks.

Its computer tool Pegasus, considered a “weapon” by the Israeli defense which must give the green light to its export, makes it possible to remotely activate the cameras and the microphones of a smartphone.

It is sold in particular to governments.

These revelations sparked worldwide outrage from human rights organizations, the media and political leaders.

Many of them had taken legal action in return.

“The ultimate hope of bringing the truth to light and punishing the guilty”

“Cooperation with the Israeli authorities will necessarily have to be sought even if it is without guarantee.

Beyond that, the information collected should make it possible to envisage the summoning of NSO by the investigating judge", reacted Vincent Brengarth and William Bourdon, lawyers for Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the National Union of Journalists and several journalists. , notably. 

This investigation is "the last hope of bringing to light the truth and punishing the culprits", indicated RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire.

Joseph Breham, lawyer for other plaintiffs including the SNJ CGT union, the daily

Humanité

, elected officials and journalists, was "delighted" that "independent magistrates" were seized of the case.

"Let's hope that these investigations make it possible to demonstrate what seems indisputable: the Moroccan authorities have spied on French politicians, journalists, lawyers and activists, without this moving the French leaders too much," added Joseph Breham.

Numerous lawsuits in progress 

The Cherifian kingdom had formally denied "these false allegations" and launched several defamation proceedings in France against several media, the Forbidden Stories consortium and Amnesty International.

In France, these lawsuits were declared inadmissible, but Morocco's lawyer had announced his intention to appeal.

In Spain, justice indicated at the beginning of June that the judge investigating the espionage of several members of the Spanish government, including Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, wanted to question the boss of the NSO company in Israel. 

The European Parliament set up a special committee of inquiry in March into alleged use of spyware or other surveillance software in the European Union (EU), including Hungary and Poland.

The case has sparked numerous legal proceedings around the world.

Apple, for example, announced in November that it had filed a complaint in the United States against NSO, because Pegasus would have been used to target iPhone users.

The Apple giant has also asked the American courts to permanently ban NSO programs on Apple brand devices and services.

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  • Justice

  • Project Pegasus

  • Journalist

  • Spying

  • Software

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