This year, Canadian research centre CitizenLab denounced the CatalanGate scandal, the biggest case of political espionage in the history of the European Union. Now, the case reaches the European Parliament, as Spanish authorities have taken no accountability on their anti-democratic actions.
On November 30th, the Committee of Inquiry to investigate the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware organized a hearing on Spain, without Catalan civil society victims being invited due to the political pressure of the Spanish members in the European Parliament.
Three guests took the floor during the hearing: Spanish journalist and spyware victim Ignacio Cembrero, Catalan lawyer and victim Mr Andreu Van den Eynde and Spanish IT expert Mr Gregorio Martín. The latter did question the techniques used by CitizenLab and Amnesty International to detect Pegasus among the targeted phones.
Members of the European Parliament Ms Sophie In’TVeld and Ms Cornelia Ernst and others questioned Mr Martin’s words, as he did not present clear proof for his thesis while discrediting renowned international organizations known for their professionalism in previous reports as well as for defending human rights.
Mr Van den Eynde explained the CatalanGate case while Mr Cembrero talked about the implication of the Moroccan authorities in similar cases. The director of the Spanish secret services, Ms Esperanza Casteleiro, took the floor at the end of the hearing, although refusing to answer any questions, using as an excuse the Official Secrets Act, a vestige of Franco’s era. Committee President Mr Jeroen Leneaers expressed that Ms Casteleiro’s intervention and refusal to answer questions is unsatisfactory.
After the hearing, a public event organized by Greens/EFA took place in the European Parliament. This alternative event turned the spotlight on the victims, who finally had the opportunity to submit their cases in the Parliament. Representatives of Catalan political parties targeted by Pegasus and civil society members took the floor to explain their cases and the lack of accountability by Spanish authorities.
The Catalan National Assembly was represented by two victims: former President Ms Elisenda Paluzie and former National Board member Ms. Sònia Urpí. The former narrated their case to the audience, stating that “we are hopeful that this Committee of Inquiry at the European Parliament will properly denounce such human rights abuses. We seek reparation, and a clear commitment by the Spanish authorities to stop such practices against political dissidence.”