Wednesday, May 18

Puigdemont: “Espionage changes things, it would not be understood to trust a government that is part of this criminal plot”

A cascade of complaints and a new moment for the relationship between Catalonia and the central government. This is what has been announced and debated this Tuesday in Brussels during the press conference in the European Parliament to react to the journalistic information that has revealed the massive espionage of independence leaders. Given these circumstances, the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has been blunt: “It is evident that there is no dialogue, but there is a massive violation of fundamental rights. It would not be understood if things remained the same and a government that is part of this criminal plot was trusted. The Spanish Government cannot pretend that this has not happened and that relations with Catalonia can continue as they have been up to now. It is evident that this espionage changes things and the whole of the independence movement must guide its actions in the face of this new reality. It is a government that has spied on us in our homes, with our daughters.”

Aragonès, among the 65 independence supporters spied on with a program available only to governments

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At his side was Oriol Junqueras, former vice president of his government and leader of ERC, a party that is part of the investiture block of the Government of Pedro Sánchez and a participant in the open dialogue table with the central Executive. “When a counterpart, in this case the Spanish State, opens a negotiation table because we have achieved it and dedicates itself to massively spying on us, before those who look at us from the outside the one who accumulates political capital is us. You have to use all the tools, political and legal confrontation and never give away an essential and useful tool like dialogue”.

In addition to Puigdemont and Junqueras, the press conference was attended by John-Scott Railton (Citizen Lab), David Kaye (former UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression), Elisenda Paluzie (ANC), Xavier Antich (Òmnium Cultural) and Carles River (CUP).

John-Scott Railton, the Citizen Lab researcher who has prepared the report that has revealed the espionage to 65 people, has linked the surveillance with the Spanish State: “Who is behind it? There is a solid link with the Spanish Government. A full and official investigation must be launched. In the case of Puigdemont, we found infected devices in his closest circle, such as his partner”.

“Pegasus is a technological solution for governments that allows them to penetrate a phone,” explains Railton: “It’s like having a spy in your pocket, with access to photos, calls, everything you can do on your phone: camera, microphone, access to your account in a cloud… There are hundreds of cases in the world, some in autocracies, but also in democracies. In the case of Catalonia, the independentists were directly attacked and their relationships, such as friends, family, collaborators. They have been all the Catalan presidents since 2020. The manufacturer, NSO, implies that the State is behind the operation. One or more entities of the Government, not in vain the objectives were of interest to the Government, the moment in which it is carried out, the fact that the CNI has been a client of NSO and that the Interior says that it has similar capacities”.

David Kaye, former UN Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression between 2014 and 2020, has pointed out that “the spyware interferes with privacy, freedom of expression, legality, proportionality and legitimacy. I have serious doubts about a tool that is used in such an intrusive way. Do we have an appropriate regulation? Do victims have a way to defend themselves? It is clear that regulations and responses are needed to avoid interfering with human rights on a global scale.”

Elisenda Paluzie (ANC) has described the case as “the biggest case of illegal espionage in Spain”; while Xavier Antich (Omnium Cutural) has pointed out: “It is not an internal matter of the Spanish State, tomorrow it could be anyone. It is a dangerous precedent for all European citizens.”

Meanwhile, Carles Riera (CUP) stated: “We have no doubt that the State is behind the Pegasus attacks. It has coincided in time with the repressive escalation. We demand responsibilities at all levels.”

In the field of responsibilities, Puigdemont has announced: “We will present complaints in five countries, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg and France [contra la empresa, por el espionaje cometido en esos países]and we will bring the case before the Council of Europe and the United Nations.”