The Moroccan government is reportedly suing Amnesty International and a French NGO for defamation after the groups claimed Rabat’s agents used Israeli malware to spy on French politicians, including President Emmanuel Macron.
“The Moroccan state… wants all possible light cast on these false allegations from these two organizations, who make claims without any concrete or demonstrative evidence whatsoever,” Olivier Baratelli, a lawyer for Morocco, said in a statement on Thursday, AFP reported.
According to data reviewed by Amnesty and Forbidden Stories, a French investigative organization, Moroccan intelligence agents used ‘Pegasus’ malware – developed by Israeli firm NSO – to spy on the phone communications of President Macron, former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, 14 other ministers and several French journalists. The allegations were first reported on Monday by Le Monde, one of 17 media outlets the two organizations shared their data with.
The Moroccan government immediately denied the accusations, calling them “unfounded and false,” and stating that it “never acquired computer software to infiltrate communication devices.”
Macron himself called an emergency security meeting on Thursday, a day after his office vowed to investigate the “very serious” allegations.
The defamation trial will likely not begin until next year, though a pretrial hearing is set for October in Paris. Prosecutors in the French capital have meanwhile launched their own investigation into the allegations of Moroccan espionage.
Amnesty and Forbidden Stories got their hands on a leaked document from NSO allegedly listing 50,000 phone numbers of politicians, journalists, activists and business figures. These numbers were reportedly listed as being of interest to customers of NSO’s ‘Pegasus’ malware, which can covertly monitor phone calls, texts, and online communications of target cell phones. Not all 50,000 numbers were tracked, but a source told The Guardian that Pegasus’ 45 customers tracked an average of 112 numbers each.
Macron isn’t the only high-level political figure allegedly surveilled. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was reportedly spied on by the administration of his predecessor, President Enrique Peña Nieto. According to media reports, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban also potentially used Pegasus to spy on a political opponent, as did Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
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