Spain court hears Morocco's case over journalist Pegasus spyware claim
Amnesty International and French NGO Forbidden Stories first confirmed that Cembrero's number was on the list.
Morocco demanded Friday that a Madrid court rule the Kingdom had nothing to do with the possible installation of Israeli Pegasus spyware on the phone of a Spanish reporter who blamed Rabat.
Its request came as the court heard Rabat's case against Ignacio Cembrero, an expert on Spain-Morocco ties who writes for the news website El Confidencial.
"It is not possible to confirm that the Kingdom of Morocco has any responsibility whatsoever" in this spyware affair, Sergio Berenguer, one of Rabat's lawyers told the court as quoted by AFP.
Cermbrero refused to back down when asked whether he wanted to retract his accusation of Morocco being behind the tapping of his phone with the spyware.
"I confirm everything that I've said," he told the court, which will issue its decision in the coming weeks.
The conflict dates back to July 2021, when a combined investigation by multiple Western media sources discovered that over 50,000 people worldwide, including activists, journalists, businesspeople, and politicians, had been spied on using spyware manufactured by Israeli corporation NSO.
The spyware infiltrates mobile phones in order to harvest data or activate a camera or microphone in order to spy on their owners.
The phone numbers of at least 180 journalists from 20 countries who had been identified as targets for surveillance by NSO clients were included on the list.
Morocco was singled out as one of the countries that purchased the program and whose security services deployed the spyware against journalists, something Rabat denies.
The list was first leaked to Amnesty International and French NGO Forbidden Stories, who confirmed Cembrero's number was on the list.
Cembrero became concerned that his phone was being monitored shortly before the probe when private Whatsapp messages he had exchanged with Spanish officials were released by a news source sympathetic to Moroccan authorities.
Cembrero has consistently stated in many writings, interviews, and even before the European Parliament that Morocco was behind the bugging.
Rabat responded fast to file a lawsuit, requesting that he drop his allegations and pay Morocco's legal fees.
Morocco has already taken similar actions in France in response to allegations that it used Pegasus software to spy on politicians, including President Emmanuel Macron, and journalists.
The French courts ruled the lawsuits inadmissible.
In Spain, kingdom attorneys have turned to an old legal clause dating back to the Middle Ages to accuse Cembrero of "an act of bragging" – in this case, boasting about something without proof.
"I've reached the conclusion.. that only a foreign power, in this case, Morocco, could have hacked my phone," Cembrero told the court, stressing that he had been subjected to "harassment" by Rabat.
He stated that this was the Kingdom's fourth lawsuit against him since 2014.
It is worth noting that the Israeli-led spyware industry has been embroiled in a seemingly never-ending spate of extremely prominent controversies. Revelations that it sells its spyware to authoritarian regimes, that its products have been used to spy on journalists, activists, politicians, and even potentially world leaders, and accusations that it played a role in murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death have put it at the center of international criticism.