The Paris Prosecutor’s Office has begun investigating the allegations that Moroccan intelligence services used Pegasus software to monitor several French journalists, which is at the core of the global scandal.
The investigation announced on Tuesday will examine 10 different allegations, including violations of personal privacy, fraudulent access to personal electronic devices, and criminal gangs.
It is in a survey A statement issued on Sunday by 17 media organizations led by the Paris-based non-profit news organization Forbidden Stories stated that Pegasus spyware manufactured and licensed by the Israeli company NSO has been used to try and successfully hack 37 smartphones belonging to journalists , Government officials and human rights activists.
Following allegations of espionage, French investigative news website Mediapart filed a legal action on Monday.
The organization stated in a series of tweets that the Moroccan secret service used Pegasus to infiltrate the mobile phones of its founder Edwy Plenel and a reporter.
Mediapart said in one of the tweets: “The only way to find out the truth is for the judicial authorities to conduct an independent investigation into the extensive espionage activities organized by Morocco in France.”
Morocco denies allegations of espionage
Morocco issued an official statement refuting what it called “baseless and false accusations.”
The government stated that it “never obtained computer software to infiltrate communications equipment.”
However, other journalists working for French media companies are also reportedly targeted by Moroccan security services, including employees of the national newspaper Le Monde and AFP.
The Paris prosecutor’s statement did not directly mention Morocco, but stated that it decided to investigate after receiving Mediapart’s complaint.
The Guardian, one of the media involved in the investigation, stated that it implied that NSO’s hacking software was “widely and continuously abused.”
NSO stated that its products are only used by vetted government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to combat “terrorism” and other serious crimes.
It issued a statement denying reports by Forbidden Stories and its partners.
At the same time, European politicians and media groups expressed indignation at these reports.
European Commission President Ursula von der Lein said that espionage, if confirmed, would be “completely unacceptable”, while French government spokesman Gabriel Atal called it “extremely shocking.”
Pegasus is a malware that infects smartphones that can extract messages, photos, and emails, record calls, and secretly activate microphones.
The new investigation into its use conducted by Forbidden Stories in cooperation with Amnesty International is based on leaked data from unknown sources.
The two said that the data they obtained showed that the “authoritarian government” as one of the NSO customers has a series of potential surveillance targets.
Reporters from the media alliance of Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International obtained data combed through a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers, identifying more than 1,000 people in 50 countries.
They include 189 journalists, 85 human rights activists and several heads of state. These include French journalists and politicians.
Amnesty was able to check the smartphones of 67 people on the list and found an attempted or successful Pegasus infection among 37 people.
The investigation found that the fiancee of “Washington Post” Jamal Khashoggi, Hatice Cengiz, was infected only four days after being killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
Amnesty International also found Pegasus on the phone of the co-founder of The Wire, an independent online media in India, and found a repeat infection on the phone of two Hungarian investigative reporters from Direkt36 media.
The list of potential targets includes Roula Khalaf, editor of the Financial Times.