SHARE
COPY LINK

POLITICS

Spyware used to tap mobile phones of Spain’s PM and defence minister

The Spanish government said Monday that the mobile phones of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Defence Minister Margarita Robles were tapped using Pegasus spyware in an "illicit and external" intervention.

Spyware used to tap mobile phones of Spain's PM and defence minister
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez (L) and Spain's Defence Minister (formerly Acting Foreign Minister) Margarita Robles in 2019. Photo: Javier Lizón/AFP

“It is not a supposition, they are facts of enormous gravity,” the minister of the presidency, Félix Bolaños, said, confirming the news.

“We are absolutely certain that it was an external attack… because in Spain, in a democracy like ours, all such interventions are carried out by official bodies and with judicial authorisation,” he said.

“In this case, neither of the two circumstances prevailed, which is why that we have not doubt that it was an external intervention. We want the justice to investigate,” Bolaños said.

He did not say whether the Spanish authorities had any indication yet where the attack originated from or whether another country was behind it.

Bolaños said that Sánchez’s phone had been tapped in May 2021 and Robles’ in June of the same year.

“A determined amount of data” was extracted from both phones, he added.

“There is no evidence that there was other tapping after those dates.”

Pegasus spyware silently infiltrates mobile phones to extract data or activate a camera or microphone to spy on their owners.

The Israel-based NSO Group, which owns Pegasus, claims the software is only sold to government agencies to target criminals and terrorists, with the green light of Israeli authorities.

The company has been criticised by global rights groups for violating users’ privacy around the world and it faces lawsuits from major tech firms such as Apple and Microsoft.

Catalan separatists have accused Spain’s intelligence services of using spyware to snoop on their mobile phones, reviving tensions with Sánchez’s minority leftist government, which relies on their support to pass legislation.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

NATO

Spain and Mali foreign ministers speak after row over NATO remarks

Mali's Foreign Minister said Saturday he had spoken with his Spanish counterpart after a row over comments the Spaniard made about the possibility of a NATO operation in the African country.

Spain and Mali foreign ministers speak after row over NATO remarks

Mali’s Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop wrote in a tweet that he had spoken by phone with his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Albares about the comments, which were made in a radio interview.

“He denied the remarks and expressed his attachment to friendly relations and cooperation with Mali,” wrote Diop.

Spain moved to calm the row Saturday, a day after a day the military regime in Bamako had summoned their ambassador for an explanation.

“Spain did not ask during the NATO summit or at any other time for an intervention, mission or any action by the Alliance in Mali,” said a statement from Spain’s embassy.

The row blew up over remarks by Albares in an interview Thursday with Spain’s RNE radio. Asked if a NATO mission in Mali could be ruled out, Albares said: “No, we can’t rule it out.”

“It hasn’t been on the table at the talks in Madrid because this is a summit that is laying out, so to speak, the framework for NATO action.”

“If it were necessary and if there was to be a threat to our security, of course it would be done,” he added.

Albares was speaking on the sidelines of the NATO summit as it drew to a close in Madrid. Diop had told state broadcaster ORTM on Friday that Bamako had summoned the Spanish ambassador to lodge a strong protest over the remarks.

READ ALSO: Nato apologises after hanging Spanish flag upside down at Madrid summit

“These remarks are unacceptable, unfriendly, serious,” said Diop, because “they tend to encourage an aggression against an independent and sovereign country”.

“We have asked for explanations, a clarification of this position from the Spanish government,” he added.

At the Madrid summit, Spain pushed hard to prioritise the topic of the threat to NATO’s southern flank caused by the unrest in the Sahel — the vast territory stretching across the south of Africa’s Sahara Desert, incorporating countries such as Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

Jihadist attacks there are pushing increasing numbers of people to flee north towards Europe, with Spain one of the main points of entry there.

READ ALSO: Spain’s capital ramps up security to host Nato summit

At the summit, NATO acknowledged the alliance’s strategic interest in the Middle East, north Africa and the Sahel.

Mali has since 2012 been rocked by jihadist insurgencies. Violence began in the north and then spread to the centre and to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

SHOW COMMENTS