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An important step. Catalonia's Mossos d'Esquadra is the police force chosen by the judiciary to analyze the mobile phones of Catalan politicians and activists who have made legal complaints about being targeted by espionage using Pegasus software, as official sources have confirmed to After a months-long impasse, the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) leaders affected by the espionage have agreed to provide their mobile phones to the various courts investigating Pegasus so that a specialized unit of the Catalan police force can analyze the devices for indications of the instances of spyware hacking, which have already been documented with a private expert in court. In the case of those espionage victims who are members of Òmnium Cultural and the CUP, the actual mobile phones will not be turned over to the police, but rather copies, sealed before a notary, will be delivered, and an appraisal will be made of these. The Mossos experts will analyze all these devices and copies, and will act as expert witnesses for the courts. Meanwhile, the plaintiffs from the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) have not, for now, brought their devices to court because of their "lack of confidence in Spanish justice", and are asking for the support of Europol, the EU agency that coordinates and facilitates actions between countries to pursue criminal organizations, as well as providing analysis by a private expert, which has certified that hacking took place.

The Pegasus complaints from the independentists are still distributed among different courts in Barcelona, and investigations have so far been stuck for three reasons: the Spanish government does not want to lift the secrecy on whether its National Intelligence Centre (CNI) has this spyware, arguing that this would compromise national security; secondly, the Israeli government does not want to collaborate with the Spanish judicial authorities, or even with the National Audience criminal court on the espionage that targetted prime minister Pedro Sánchez; and finally, the complainants did not want to hand over their mobile phones, affirming that they had already provided expert evidence which corroborated the hacking, in addition to the original Catalangate investigation by the Canadian human rights group Citizen Lab. Now, most of the victims have agreed to provide either their devices or copies of their content. All of them report having suffered violations of their right to privacy and secrecy of communications, and point to the Spanish government or state bodies as the alleged perpetrators of these crimes.

"Signs" of espionage

In April this year, Òmnium Cultural revealed that an expert report commissioned by the pro-independence body found "signs of being compromised by Pegasus software" on the cellphones of the Òmnium vice president, Marcel Mauri, the journalist Txell Bonet, partner of the former vice-president Jordi Cuixart, and the head of the international area, Elena Jiménez, at different times between 2017 and 2020. The Òmnium case is being heard in the Barcelona court number 21. 

As for the CUP plaintiffs, their cases had been presented to the judge of Barcelona court number 32, with whom the very first ERC complaint of Pegasus espionage (the case of Roger Torrent and Ernest Maragall) was being heard, and is now half-closed. Finally, however, the judge has accepted the cases. Those affected are: the journalist and ex-deputy David Fernández; the former CUP deputy in Congress, Albert Bortran, and the deputy in the Catalan Parliament, Carles Riera. It was the lawyer Benet Salellas, leading the Òmnium and CUP cases, who decided to present a copy of the mobile phone content to the court.

The CNI director's statement

Meanwhile, the lawyer Andreu Van den Eynde, who is conducting the case for the ERC victims - as well as his own, since his phone was also hacked - succeeded in convincing the judge of Barcelona court number 20, Eva Moltó, to ask the Spanish cabinet to lift the curtain of confidentiality, in order to ask whether the CNI uses Pegasus and if the agency spied on the Catalan MP Josep Maria Jové and the MEP Diana Riba.

In August, however, the Pedro Sánchez government slammed the door on this request, although it did state that the two ERC politicians had not been investigated and that the CNI director, Esperanza Casteleiro, could be summoned to testify in court only for this particular end. It was Casteleiro who appeared before the Pegasus committee in the European Parliament but failed to clarify anything, appealing to national secrecy for her refusal to respond. Her possible citation to appear in the Barcelona court remains pending. In addition, the judge of Barcelona court number 29, Santiago García, has finally taken up the case of Catalan president Pere Aragonès.

Apart from this, the director of the Catalan president's communication and strategy office, Sergi Sabrià, became the first to hand over his mobile phone to a judge, in his case to Barcelona court number 23, so that the Mossos unit could try to clarify more details on the Pegasus espionage against him which took place between the January 2020 investiture of Pedro Sánchez as Spanish prime minister - in which the votes received from ERC were vital - the first session of the negotiation table with the PSOE that February, and the start of the pandemic in the same month, according to legal sources. At the time, Sabrià was the head of the ERC parliamentary group. As for other ERC cases, the espionage against Junqueras's lawyer, Andreu Van den Eynde and MEP Jordi Solé, is being analyzed in the Barcelona court number 24, and the more senior Barcelona Audience court has already made it clear that the police cannot trawl through the lawyer's cellphone.

The ANC wants Europol to be involved

For their part, the former presidents of the ANC, Jordi Sànchez and Elisenda Paluzie, and the pro-independence body's members who were targeted, Sònia Urpí, Arià Bayé and Jordi Domingo, have provided the judge of Barcelona court number 23 with an expert analysis carried out by the company Evidentia, which confirmed the infections on their mobile phones, as the ANC told In this case, the judge insists that they must bring the devices to court. ANC lawyer Antoni Abat has asked the court to investigate further questions and to ask Europol to get involved in this investigation.

Specifically, the Assembly is requesting that the court investigate new areas within the framework of the recommendations of the European Parliament to the Council and the Commission, last June, regarding its parliamentary investigation into the use of Pegasus. Thus, it is requesting that an international letter rogatory be directed to Ireland and that the companies NSO Group, Q.Cyber Technologies Limited and OSY Technologies be asked judicially whether they spied on ANC members. As well, that the Dublin-based company Whatsapp Ireland Limited, be asked, under judicial authorization, if the firm is aware of the Pegasus hacking of Jordi Domingo's mobile phone between April and May 2019.

Espionage approved by Supreme Court

The ANC lawyer adds that Paluzie and Sànchez were spied on with the authorization of a court order - from the Supreme Court judge who has the job of granting approval for surveillance actions by the CNI spy agency, according to multiple public information - and the lawyer therefore requests that "access to the judicial order should be provided in order to know the motivations and justifications behind it and those of the judicial body that issued the authorization"; over this, Abat already concludes that "the principle of proportionality was violated". In this regard, it is also requested that, given the information that the CNI uses the Pegasus software, the Spanish cabinet should be asked to declassify the information related to the complainants and that the spy agency director, Esperanza Casteleiro, be called to testify.

Finally, it is requested that "Europol be invited to participate in the investigations" with its "technical expertise". In particular, a key request for Europol is that it be asked whether the ANC members can hand over their terminals to this EU police force, "in order to take advantage of their experience in this type of crime".