Europe

Top Catalan politician accuses Spain of 'political spying'

Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent gives a press conference on 14 July, 2020 in Barcelona. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Roger Torrent has called for an investigation into the alleged spying

A leading Catalan pro-independence politician has accused the Spanish government of spying on his mobile phone.

Roger Torrent, speaker of the Catalan parliament, spoke out after details of the alleged espionage were revealed in a joint investigation by the Guardian and El Pais newspapers.

Mr Torrent said it was proof of "political spying against political opponents" in Spain.

Madrid has denied the allegations.

The Guardian and El Pais newspapers reported that Mr Torrent had been warned that his phone was targeted last year using Pegasus, an Israeli-made spyware tool.

The makers of the tool say it is only sold to governments to track criminals and terrorists.

Mr Torrent was warned about the spyware by researchers working with WhatsApp.

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Torrent called for a full investigation into what happened.

"This is the first time that we have concrete confirmation of what many of us knew and had been denouncing... We knew that illegal practices were being directed against the independence cause. Now we have certain proof," he said.

The office of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez denied the accusations.

A spokeswoman told AFP news agency the government was not aware that Mr Torrent and another former Catalan lawmaker "had been subjected to a hacking attack via their mobile phones".

"In Spain, any intervention concerning a mobile phone is always done legally," she said.

Catalonia's drive for independence has plunged Spain into its biggest political crisis in 40 years. The region had its autonomy suspended for almost seven months by Madrid after a failed bid to break away in 2017.

In October last year, Spain's Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan politicians and activists to jail terms of between nine and 13 years for that independence bid.

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