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Spain: Court reopens investigation in Pegasus spying scandal

April 23, 2024

Spain and France will share information from their separate investigations into the use of Pegasus software to spy on their politicians, including Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and President Emmanuel Macron.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and French President Emmanuel Macron
Spainsh Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and French President Emmanuel Macron both allegedly had their mobile phones hackedImage: Bertrand Guay/AP/picture alliance

Spain's High Court on Tuesday ordered the reopening of an investigation into the alleged hacking of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and other Spanish politicians' phones with Pegasus spyware.

The investigation was launched in 2022 when the government said software from the Israeli firm NSO Group was used to spy on ministers, triggering a political crisis in Spain. The probe was shelved last year over "the complete lack of legal cooperation" from Israel.

After receiving new information from French judicial authorities, Judge Jose Luis Calama decided to reopen Spain's investigation.

What is the Pegasus software?

Pegasus is a software that can be used on mobile phones to extract data or activate a camera or microphone to spy on owners. 

Developed by Israel's NSO company, the spyware requires a government license for export because it is considered a weapon.

NSO insists that it is only made available to governments to fight terrorism and other security threats.

Pegasus has been used to target more than 1,000 people across 50 countries, including activists and journalists, according to security researchers and a 2021 global media investigation.

Spanish politicians targeted

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Defense Minister Margarita Robles, Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska, and Agriculture Minister Luis Planas were among those allegedly targeted in Spain.

Pegasus: the invisible spy


The revelations caused a political crisis in the country that led to the resignation of its spy chief.

French President Emmanuel Macron and several of his ministers were also targeted.

Spain and France investigators to work together

The Spanish court said Tuesday, "comparing the technical elements gathered in the French investigation" with the one in Spain "may enable the investigation to progress... to trace the origin of the piracy."

The investigation is trying to discover who is responsible for the snooping. However, no one has been accused yet.

The judge ordered expert analysis to determine the authorship of the cyber attacks by cross-examining the technical elements collected in the French and Spanish investigations. 

"All of this will allow for joint and coordinated action by the French and Spanish judicial authorities in order to determine the authorship of the infestation carried out through the Pegasus spy programme in both France and Spain," the judge said.

km/lo (Reuters, AP)