European Parliament Pegasus Inquiry Committee report points at Spanish government involvement in espionage on the Catalan independence movement

Committee Vice-President Esquerra MEP Diana Riba applauds the document and maintains that it corroborates the anti-democratic use made of Pegasus

The purchase by the Spanish government of the Pegasus spyware is estimated to have cost €6 million and to have been used to spy on up to 65 persons in the CatalanGate affair. Those are some of the details in the preliminary report by the European Parliament Pegasus Committee rapporteur Sophie in’t Veld, who also points at the Spanish government as being the first client of the NSO group—the creator of Pegasus—in the European Union.

The report also denounces Spain’s opacity, as well as the fact that the court warrants for the espionage “have not been disclosed,” and therefore “it is not possible to establish in what way the targets would have an immediate impact or constitute an imminent threat to national security or to the integrity of the State.” In addition, she points out that most of the CatalanGate attacks coincide with and are related to moments of great political relevance, such as court cases against Catalan independence activists, political rallies and communications with Catalan leaders who are in exile.

“That these cases of eavesdropping are related to specific political processes and not to terrorist attacks or criminal and violent situations is very important: it shows that this spyware is used to interfere with the democratic life of a country, in this case Catalonia,” highlighted the Vice-President of the European Parliament Pegasus Committee and Esquerra MEP Diana Riba.

Ms Riba also pointed out that, for the first time, a figure has been revealed, the 6 million euros that the purchase of Pegasus would have cost the Spanish state. “We need to be transparent with the purchase of these products with public monies,” she defended.

The report is an initial draft to which the rapporteurs of each parliamentary group may suggest amendments. Debate will then begin between the groups that will lead to a final report that will be voted on, first by the Pegasus Committee and finally by the plenary of the European Parliament. “Beginning with such a well-crafted and well-drafted basis makes us hopeful,” said Ms Riba.

She also emphasized that the report vouches for Citizen Lab as a perfectly valid source, unlike the Spanish government, which mocked both Citizen Lab and The New Yorker, which in the words of Minister Margarita Robles ignored their existence: “I don’t know who they are nor who their sources are.”

Regarding the different court hearings, the report also indicates that the “fast-lane nature of the Sànchez case in Madrid”—referring to the case of espionage on the Spanish government—contrasts sharply with the snail’s pace of “the cases brought to court in Barcelona by the Catalan victims.”

“We are highly satisfied with the result of the Committee of Inquiry, despite the fact that it is not definitive,” affirmed fellow Esquerra MEP Jordi Solé. His is one of the few cases that has succeeded in being heard in court, although the hearings are still at a very early stage. “The European Parliament Pegasus Committee confirms in many ways what we have been saying for some time: we have been the victims of political espionage by the Spanish state,” concluded Mr Solé.

For her part, Catalan Minister for Foreign Affairs Meritxell Serret assures that the government of Catalonia has received the substance of the report, including the conclusions of the rapporteur, “with satisfaction.” In this regard, Ms Serret emphasized that the report establishes a link between the espionage on 65 Catalan victims and their political circumstance, and denounced the lack of cooperation by Spain. The minister recalled the efforts by the Catalan government to convey all possible information regarding CatalanGate to the European Parliament. “CatalanGate is not an open-and-shut case here, nor at the European institutions” she affirmed. “It is a call to attention for the Spanish government.”