SHARE
COPY LINK

POLITICS

Spain sacks spy chief over phone hacking scandal

Spain's government on Tuesday sacked the country's intelligence agency director in the wake of the hacking of the mobile phones of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Catalan separatist leaders.

Spain sacks spy chief over phone hacking scandal
Spain's CNI intelligence agency director Paz Esteban last week confirmed her organisation had spied on Catalan separatists. Photo: Defence Ministry

Contacted by AFP, the prime minister’s office refused to confirm the reports in the online edition of daily newspaper El País and other media.

Defence Minister Margarita Robles, whose ministry overseas Spain’s CNI intelligence agency, is due to take part later on Tuesday in a press conference following a weekly cabinet meeting, the government said.

Paz Esteban, the first woman to head Spain’s CNI intelligence agency, appeared before a parliamentary committee for questioning last week over the phone hacking scandal.

She confirmed that Catalan separatists had been spied on by the CNI but always with court approval, several participants at the meeting told Spanish media at the time.

Government sources, cited by the media, said the government had not been informed of the spying.

The scandal broke in April when Canadian cybersecurity watchdog Citizen Lab said the phones of over 60 people linked to the Catalan separatist movement had been tapped using Pegasus spyware after a failed independence bid in 2017.

It deepened after the government announced on May 2 that the phones of Sánchez and Robles were hacked by the same spyware, made by Israel’s NSO group, in May and June 2021.

The affair has sparked a crisis between Sanchez’s minority government and Catalan separatist party ERC. Sanchez’s fragile coalition relies on the ERC to pass legislation in parliament.

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