65 top representatives and activists of Catalonia’s pro-independence movement have been illegally spied on, according to independent research center Citizen Lab, in what is the biggest Pegasus spyware case in the world yet: #CatalanGate.
This Tuesday afternoon, Assemblea president Elisenda Paluzie has taken part in a press conference at the European Parliament together with Catalan political and civil society representatives to denounce the largest case of espionage using the Pegasus spyware discovered to date, dubbed #CatalanGate.
“Some sixty people linked to the Catalan independence movement, a democratic and pro-European political movement, have been victims of the biggest case of illegal espionage in Europe and the world using Pegasus spyware”, stated Assemblea President Elisenda Paluzie.
Citizen Lab, a Canadian laboratory specializing in spyware and digital rights, published a research report which reveals that the Catalan movement has been under constant surveillance for the last five years with the Pegasus program (2017-2021), an infamous spyware from Israeli company NSO Group. The case was denounced yesterday by The New Yorker and Amnesty International. With a total of 65 victims, #CatalanGate is the largest spyware case in history using this software, in terms of scope and relevance, as it has taken place against a whole democratic movement in Spain, an EU Member State.
Citizen Lab senior researcher John Scott Railton also took part in the press conference, and stated that “we have worked with many of the victims of Catalan Gate: members or sympathizers of the Catalan pro-independence movement, but also their friends and relatives, who have been attacked by Pegasus or Candiru”. Railton added that “we’ve seen a lot of evidence that point at Spanish authorities, considering who the victims are, the timing and circumstances of the attacks. There is a clear nexus, it would be highly unlikely that a non-#Spanish agent would be behind such a massive attack.”
Ms. Paluzie, together with Xavier Antich, president of the other major Catalan civil society organization, Òmnium Cultural, as well as representatives of the three main Catalan pro-independence parties, Carles Riera (CUP), Oriol Junqueras (Esquerra Republicana) and Carles Puigdemont (Junts per Catalunya), alerted of the grave implications of this case, and called on the EU authorities to take action to stop this illegal practice. Most of the Pegasus cases have affected members of these organizations and political parties, lawyers, journalists, as well as their friends and relatives, seemingly for having taken part in a peaceful and democratic movement.
In this sense, Ms. Paluzie stated that “as a democratic and pro-European political movement, we have been victims of the largest case of illegal espionage in Europe and the world using Pegasus spyware. In the face of all these grievances and attacks on the people of Catalonia, from civil society we believe in the need for a strong response from all pro-independence groups, aimed at cutting ties with Spanish nationalist parties”, concluded Paluzie.
Ms. Paluzie also recalled that the Spanish authorities’ harsh repression is not new: “The presidents of Assemblea and Òmnium Cultural were imprisoned by the Spanish authorities for organizing peaceful demonstrations and both organizations have been spied on with Pegasus, a flagrant violation of our rights to free speech, freedom of assembly and association”
Five members of the Assembly have been spied on in recent years. The president, Elisenda Paluzie, and the former president and political prisoner, Jordi Sànchez, stand out. In addition, the national secretaries Arià Bayé and Sònia Urpí, and the grassroots activist Jordi Domingo were also targeted.