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Spain shelves probe of Pegasus spyware, cites lack of cooperation from Israel

A Spanish judge probing the alleged hacking of ministers’ phones with Israeli-made Pegasus spyware has shelved his investigation over a “complete” lack of cooperation from Israel, a court statement said Monday, reported the AFP news agency.

In June 2022, Jose Luis Calama said he had sent a formal request for international judicial assistance, known as a letter rogatory, to the Israeli government asking for information about the software made by Israeli firm NSO Group.

He also said he wanted to go there in person to take a witness statement from NSO’s chief executive.

On Monday, the Audiencia Nacional, Spain’s top criminal court, said Calama had decided to provisionally close the case “due to the complete lack of legal cooperation from Israel, which has not responded to the rogatory commission… and has prevented the investigation from going ahead”.

The investigation began in May 2022 after the Spanish government said the spyware, which infiltrates mobile phones to extract data or activate a camera or microphone to spy on their owners, had been used against top politicians.

  • The Israeli government had never answered the request for assistance, which had been sent “four times”, meaning “it probably never would”, the court said in a statement, indicating the only remaining option was diplomacy.

The scandal emerged in April 2022 when Canadian cybersecurity watchdog Citizen Lab published a report saying the phones of at least 65 Catalan separatists had been tapped following the failed 2017 independence bid.

  • Spain’s El Pais newspaper later reported that the country’s intelligence service had court approval to spy on the separatists.
  • NSO has come under fire over the Pegasus spyware. In one case, the Finnish foreign ministry said it had detected Pegasus in several phones used by its diplomats abroad.

The Finnish announcement followed a report in The New York Times which said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu worked to ensure that Saudi Arabia would be able to use the Pegasus software, around the time that the Abraham Accords were signed with the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

  • The US Commerce Department has blacklisted NSO Group, prohibiting it from using American technology in its operations.

Source: Arutz Sheva