The explanations by the Spanish authorities still seem insufficient. The Council of Europe has published a new warning about the Catalangate espionage and has demanded responses from Spain. Specifically, the platform of the Council of Europe that promotes the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists issued an alert this Thursday denouncing the espionage using Pegasus spyware "targeting journalists", including several working in the area of the Catalan independence movement, recalling that the investigation conducted by Citizen Lab noted that there are "at least" four media professionals on the list of 65 people connected with the independence movement who were spied on with the Israeli software.
The four journalists on the list are Meritxell Bonet, wife of the former president of civil group Òmnium Cultural, Jordi Cuixart; Marcel Mauri, who was vice president of that same group from 2019 to this year; Marcela Topor, partner of president Carles Puigdemont; and Albano Dante Fachin, who was a member of the Catalan Parliament. The Council of Europe platform has highlighted that in 2019 evidence was found of what would be the first of three Pegasus infections on Bonet's mobile phone as well as spying on SMS messages through Pegasus between February 2018 and May 2020.
Alert level 1
The journalism platform which forms part of the continent's leading human rights organization also mentions that more than 200 Spanish mobile phones "have been known to be potential surveillance targets", and here it mentions the Maghreb-specialist journalist Ignacio Cembrero, who worked in El País and El Mundo before joining El Confidencial in 2015 and collaborating with TV network La Sexta. The Council of Europe's complaint states that Cembrero had to "confront judicial pressure from a Moroccan businessman and a legal suit filed by former prime minister Abdelilah Benkiran". In these cases, notes the Council, "the Spanish authorities have ruled out any internal surveillance and point out that possible espionage must have come from abroad. It has been confirmed that Morocco has used Pegasus in the past, but it has denied spying on any foreign leaders with the espionage software", remarks the alert.
The warning issued by the Council of Europe on Thursday is set at the highest level, level 1, which covers the most serious and harmful violations of media freedom, including murder, threats, assault, arbitrary detention, imprisonment or acts with an severe impact on press freedom. Following its publication, the platform expects authorities to send a response on the case reported, "detailing preventive, protective or remedial action taken to address the threat". The publication takes place once the government of the affected country has been informed (in this case, Spain).