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Morocco sues Spanish reporter for eavesdropping on spyware

Morocco has filed a proceeding against a Spanish journalist who claims his cell phone was targeted by Pegasus spyware planted by Rabat, judicial sources said on Monday. rice field.

A complaint against Ignacio Sembrero, a Spanish-Morocco relations expert working on the El Confidencial news website, was accepted by a Madrid court, a spokesperson for the district court officials said. rice field.

Last year, a survey by 17 media organizations accused Morocco of using Israeli spyware. This spyware breaks into mobile phones to extract data and activate cameras and microphones to spy on owners.

Rabat denied the motion.

According to a copy of the complaint seen by AFP, Morocco requires Cembrero to withdraw his claim and pay Morocco's legal costs.

"The Kingdom of Morocco is not involved in Ignacio Sembrero or other civilian spies," "has no Pegasus program," said a lawyer representing Rabat.

Cembrero was flagging the proceedings on his Twitter account.

"Morocco is taking me to court for spying on Pegasus," he tweeted Monday.

He said Morocco had sued him in Spain "fourth time", but demanded for the first time a "withdrawal" claiming that Rabat was responsible for spying on Pegasus software. ..

"Restricting journalists' freedom of speech is a political trial," he tweeted.

Morocco's proceedings against Cembrero were immediately condemned by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a media rights group.

"Moroccan authorities accused of using Pegasus spyware are accusing journalist Ignacio Sembrero, the victim of the spy, for defamation," he tweeted.

"RSF condemns these repeated attacks on this journalist and reaffirms his support for freedom of work."

Cembrero "Flag of surveillance" Was set up. ”

According to a Pegasus survey published in July 2021, at least 180 journalist mobile phones in 20 countries were targeted and flagged as spyware. Monitoring by clients of the Israeli company NSO Group, the manufacturer of.

Their number was on the list of more than 50,000 people selected for monitoring, leaked to French NGOs Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International, and shared information with more than 12 media organizations. The

list included mobile numbers for human rights defenders, political opponents, executives, and even heads of state.

Morocco purchased the program from NSO Group and was selected by its intelligence agency as one of the countries that used spyware for journalists.

Rabat categorically denied the claim and soon began to file defamation proceedings in France against Amnesty International, French NGOs, and other media.

However, the court ruled in March that this allegation was unacceptable.

According to the Forbidden Stories, Cembrero's mobile phone was one of the many "targeting" phones in Pegasus.

In May, the Spanish government revealed that the mobile phones of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and several other Prime Ministers were hacked using Pegasus software.

The government didn't know what information was extracted from the phone or who was behind it, but was convinced that it was an "external attack."

The hack took place in May and June 2021 in the midst of a major controversy between Spain and Morocco and was resolved only earlier this year.