The Paris prosecutor’s office has launched an investigation into allegations that Morocco’s intelligence agencies used Israeli malware to hack the phones of several French journalists.
The probe will consider 10 possible charges, including potential breaches of personal privacy and fraudulent access to personal electronic devices.
The move comes after a consortium of more than a dozen media organizations, citing leaked information and subsequent forensic analysis, reported that Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group had allegedly helped numerous governments to spy on journalists, activists and even heads of state using its Pegasus malware program.
The revelation was followed by a legal complaint filed by French outlet Mediapart, which claimed that Morocco’s secret services used Pegasus to spy on two of its reporters. Another French outlet, Le Canard enchaine, is reportedly preparing to follow suit with similar allegations.
[ PEGASUS ] Les téléphones portables de nos journalistes @LenaBred et @edwyplenel ont été infectés par le logiciel espion #Pegasus, actionné par des services secrets marocains.Nous déposons plainte auprès du procureur de la République de Paris. Explications dans ce #THREAD 👇 pic.twitter.com/pMREd3D7ty
Morocco has denied wrongdoing, and issued a statement dismissing what it called “unfounded and false allegations” related to its alleged use of the Israeli malware.
NSO has also disputed the suggestion that its spyware was misused, insisting that its government clients are carefully vetted and that the product is exclusively used for counterterrorism or other serious criminal investigations.
A leaked “wishlist” of alleged Pegasus targets included 50,000 telephone numbers belonging to journalists, businessmen, NGO workers, religious leaders and even presidents and prime ministers. Dating back to 2016, the list was reportedly compiled from requests from NSO clients in 10 countries: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Hungary, India, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Hungary and Morocco have denied the claims, and NSO said that the alleged leak has been mischaracterized by media reports.
France isn’t alone in seeking answers about the purported spying scandal. Indian lawmakers on Tuesday called for a parliamentary investigation into the government’s alleged use of Pegasus.
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