Pegasus: The judge dismisses the Moroccan lawsuit against the journalist Ignacio Cembrero | Spain | The USA Print

The journalist Ignacio Cembrero, in a file image.

The Court of First Instance Number 72 of Madrid has dismissed the lawsuit filed by the Kingdom of Morocco against the Spanish journalist Ignacio Cembrero. The neighboring State accused the informant, an expert in the Maghreb, of boasting of having been spied on by the Moroccan secret services with the Israeli Pegasus virus and wanted the court to issue a sentence in which it categorically established that Cembrero had not been the object of any interference illegitimate on his mobile phone by Rabat.

However, the judge rejects Morocco’s claims, alleging that the analysis of the journalist’s telephone terminal that was carried out after he denounced an alleged illegal interception of his communications determined that, at the time of the examination, August 2021, he was not infected. for no malware“but it cannot be ruled out that it had been installed previously and no trace remained, so it cannot be ruled out that Mr. Cembrero’s mobile device had been the object of espionage through the introduction of some computer program.”

Regarding the public statements in which the journalist allegedly boasted of having been spied on by the Israeli secret service, the judge concluded just the opposite: “In the statements made by Mr. Cembrero in the media, reference is made to the fact that it is very difficult to prove or demonstrate that it was Morocco who introduced the Pegasus software on your mobile device and that you cannot prove that a State – in this case, Morocco – is responsible for such facts”.

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In the interviews he gave after his name appeared on the list of alleged spies with the Pegasus program according to an investigation by the journalistic group Forbidden Stories, the sentence adds, it was always the interviewers who affirmed that the Moroccan secret service accessed his mobile, but not him. “Nor can he be held responsible for the publication of a tweet from a foreign newspaper,” he adds, referring to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

The judge concludes, therefore, that Cembrero “has not proceeded to publicly disclose” that Morocco “has introduced a computer program into his phone” and that the statements he made about the alleged interest that the Moroccan secret service might have in his work were carried out “before the dissemination of a journalistic investigation”, after seeing private WhatsApp messages published on a Moroccan website and before “the seriousness of some events” that have led to the opening of criminal proceedings and an investigation in the European Parliament .

In July 2021, the international consortium of journalists Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International (AI) uncovered a massive espionage scandal according to which some twenty countries (Morocco, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Hungary, among others), had the Pegasus spyware , from the Israeli company NSO, with which the mobile phones of journalists, activists or politicians would have been infected. The investigation was based on the leaking of 50,000 telephone numbers selected as potential targets by Pegasus clients since 2016. The only Spanish name that has emerged from said list, which included 180 informants, is Cembrero, who was an editor for EL COUNTRY and currently it is The confidential.

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Different media pointed to Rabat as responsible for using Pegasus to spy on French journalists and Moroccan opponents based in France. Morocco responded by denouncing for defamation the world, Radio France, L’Humanite either France Medias Monde; plus Forbidden Stories and AI. All the lawsuits were inadmissible by the Paris courts last March, arguing that freedom of expression protects the press and legal protection against defamation can be wielded by citizens, not by States.

The Pegasus program was used to spy on 63 Catalan and Basque independentistas; of which 18 cases, including the president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, were recognized as their own by the National Intelligence Center (CNI). It was also the system used to extract information from the mobile phones of President Pedro Sánchez and the Ministers of the Interior (Fernando Grande-Marlaska), Defense (Margarita Robles) and Agriculture (Luis Planas), in the spring of 2021, at the height of the of the diplomatic crisis with Morocco.

This is the fourth complaint that Rabat has filed against Cembrero before the Spanish Justice, which has filed it as it did with all the previous ones, although the decision can be appealed.

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