Nikos Androulakis says that the competent body in the European Parliament examined 270 mobile phones, and only his was found to contain Predator spy software. A few days later, he reported this to Greece’s highest court, the Aeropag. Then he learned that this was not followed up from September to December 2021. The government claimed not to use the spy software and is now avoiding questions about this. In his case, the surveillance was done at the time of parliamentary elections, so the use was during the election campaign.
The first diabolical coincidence is that the Prime Minister has moved the EYP from the Ministry of Citizen Protection to the Prime Minister’s Office. The second diabolical coincidence is that the Predator attack coincides with the illegal surveillance of his country’s intelligence services. It is exactly the same interval. With a few days difference in September 2021, so basically we are talking about two events that synchronise, even though the government says it is not using the Predator, but it is not taking the necessary steps to finally find out who is using it because it is not the only case. The surveillance period by the intelligence agency EYP covers the entire pre-election period for the emergence of the leadership of our caucus. Therefore, there was a strong political interest. Since the beginning of this adventure, there have been several leaks. The first claimed that third country embassies had asked his country to monitor me, naming Ukraine and Armenia. Within hours, the embassies of the two countries replied that this was all fake news and that they had never requested anything like this from the Greek intelligence services. He realises that the reasons are political. He cannot be an MEP for eight years and never have something like this happen to me, neither to the Predator nor to the country’s secret services, and suddenly be watched as soon as he declared that he wanted to be PASOK’s presidential candidate.
Now it has come out that another journalist was bugged with Predator. The operation can be kept secret if secret services are in charge, they only have to refer to „national interests“. It is not possible to know the reasons for the action. The Nea Dimokratia party passed a law on this in 2021. A 2008 law allows the prime minister to lift the secrecy. I made a motion on this, which was rejected, because the law supposedly does not allow this. They have tabled an amendment concerning the 2021 Act. He doesn’t want to live in a failed state, so we all have to work for democracy, that there is a legal framework so that oligarchs can’t hold on to power with their hands and feet.
In the Q&A Androulakis explains the work of the Greek Committee of Inquiry, where Intellexa, the distributor of Predator, was also investigated. They were bought for 5,000 euros, contracts were then bought for 9 million euros. No minister or the resigned intelligence chief testified there, only I was there. The current, new intelligence chief, offered to give him information on the measure. But Androulakis wants the Greek people to receive this information publicly, legally. He wants justice and transparency, from the Greek government, but also from the European Parliament, because this is about European values.
He said they don’t know exactly what is happening in the courts. In the Committee of Inquiry, there was no will to really move forward. Secret services always start their actions for 2 months, then they have to find reasons to extend them. In my case, this also happened for another 2 months. No one is outside the law, so those responsible must be found and brought to justice.
The EP committee must do what Greece’s committee has not done. This must also be done beyond the judiciary. Through him, You [ Parliament] have also been spied on, including his party’s connections. This is trampling on the very foundations of democracy. It is not a personal matter, but an opportunity to improve democracy everywhere in Europe.
Diana Riba i Giner thanked the Committee and the Secretariat for the hearing. We would have to act radically democratically and ensure that Europe is and remains a space of rights. In her specific case, something struck her on 28 October 2019, she was called by an assistant who received a recording of a phone call that had been intercepted before. That was an important moment in her life, also in her term as an MEP. That was when action was taken against her husband, Raül Romeva, former Member of the European Parliament and former member of the Catalan regional government. He was then sentenced to 12 years in prison. On 4 June 2019, there were first infections of my mobile phone, she then found out after she arranged investigations. This was all part of the proceedings against Catalonia’s independence politicians. Spying on her also meant spying on her husband, but also on the entire parliament. It is still unclear who initiated the measure, the investigating judge also told her this. Her lawyer, who was also spied on, reminded the judge to do his job. My case is embedded in a total of 65 cases of spying measures that lasted from 2015 to 2020, a huge period of time. It was only in April this year that this resulted in the publication as „CatalanGate“. They want to be recognised as victims first. The ruling party says everything is fine because there is a court order. But they have never seen it. She does not know why she was spied on, nor what information was collected, which is where the committee could help. She wants to know how a judge manages to sign a warrant against MEPs. She asks the President of the EU Parliament to ask NSO in Israel directly who was spied on. She also asks that the Committee send a mission to Spain to ask why Spain does not have a committee of enquiry into the spying software as other countries do.
Riba i Giner also has no further information about their cases. They are being spied on by the Spanish state and do not believe in justice. Mechanisms are needed so that citizens are officially informed if and how they have been spied on. They as victims, as they were invited to the committee, they can present their petitions and make sure that the work progresses there, and for example that a protocol is created for new cases, as in Greece. Investigations could then be requested from the Commission. All governments – except Spain – have replied to the Commission’s letters. European institutions need instruments in the case of spying.
Jordi Solé also wants to know if there was a court order. In March of this year, it turned out that his mobile phone was infected twice in June 2020, and later there were five more attacks. There were no indications like in Diana’s case that something was wrong with his phone. With a team from Citizen Lab, they then arranged for further investigation and they were given a live demonstration of how such an infection takes place. There was a vacant MEP seat at the time, but Spain’s government tried to prevent it from being filled. His party had also been considering how to enforce their rights to the seat through international litigation. So this was a very clear case of political spying. Information was to be siphoned off from a political, democratic and legitimate movement, in this case how they occupy this space. Even one intercepted activist person is too many. In their case, it is a whole 65 people. On the question of judicial authorisation; he does not know whether his spying was covered in this way or not. But if there was no such decision, then it must be said that it was a completely illegal measure, which would then be a huge scandal. If there was such a decision, he wanted to know the reasons, because it was political espionage. For the state, his movement was a democratic challenge that could not be met by spying. On the question of „national security“, why allegedly information could not be given. Last week, he testified in a court in Barcelona as a victim. He is standing in front of a wall, in front of a black hole. The argument of „national security“ means that his movement is being painted as a threat.
When asked, Jordi Solé specifies that he prefers to put his mobile phone aside these days. On the question of the technical functionalities of the spy software, this would have to be addressed to the Spanish state, which is why there is an urgent need for an official mission of the Committee there. Especially as there is an extremely high number of people affected there. He demands justice, those responsible must live up to it; transparency and justice. If there should be further investigations, he would be happy to make his mobile phone available. He is not at all sure whether he himself was to be spied on or whether the interest was not directed against his contacts; he also had contact with people in exile at the time.
Antoni Comín i Oliveres describes that 18 people were spied on after authorisation by the Supreme Court, but 65 people were documented by Citizen Lab. The EP committee has to find out who spied on him and his MEP colleagues. This is the first question. It must also be clarified what the legal basis is. Is there a law that allows the secret services to do this, is there a judge who can authorise it? In his case, this is not legally possible, because what should he have done to be spied on? Because he is a supporter of independence? This is the second question that the EP committee should ask the Spanish state. The third question is when exactly was he spied on? However, he can answer that; Citizen Lab has determined that this was, for example, in January 2020. This was a few days after Carles Puigdemont and he became MEPs. Thus they also enjoyed immunity, which should have been respected by the Spanish state. At the time, they were involved in an event in Perpignan when hundreds of thousands of people – before the first lockdown – gathered for a demonstration. He and his team were also in contact with the French Ministry of the Interior to enforce the fundamental right to freedom of assembly. At that time he had been spied on, probably to obtain information about the event. The fourth and final question is what happened to the information gathered after he was spied on. We are talking here about confidential information which, according to the law, cannot be shared. This law dates back to the 70s, to the Franco era. All this does not fit with European fundamental rights and values, especially when it is directed against a political movement.
In the Q&A, Comín i Oliveres replies that he has no idea why he was spied on. He would like an answer from the initiators. He trusts the German jurists who examined his case more than the Spanish ones. In the case of Carles Puigdemont, too, German judges from Schleswig-Holstein ruled accordingly [Comín i Oliveres forbids interference by other MPs while he is answering]. That is why he trusts the Scottish and Belgian lawyers more. In their case, in his case, they are not on the list of 18 publicly confirmed. If the Spanish state has nothing to hide, why are they afraid, have they not set up a commission of inquiry?
Carles Puigdemont recalls the Citizen Lab report that 65 people were spied on with Pegasus; 11 of them are in his immediate environment. Among them are his wife, two of his lawyers, a member of the Catalan parliament and current leader of his parliamentary group, and a representative in the town hall. This is an illegal measure that cannot be justified. His lawyers were hacked while they were strategising about lifting his immunity in the EP. This is an interference with the fundamental rights of democracy. Another anomaly he would like to draw attention to; the judge who ordered the measure against his lawyers is the same person who knew exactly what the lawyer had discussed with him, who was therefore involved in his case. The last three presidents of the Catalan government were spied on directly and indirectly, this is not normal. Even when we were preparing for the different elections. It sometimes leads to some panic when the attacks by Pegasus cannot be attributed. If we one hold those responsible accountable, everyone would be reassured, but no one can respond. In 15-25 cases, the espionage was admitted, but it was never said whether it was Pegasus. There is another surveillance system in Spain that is traceable and controllable, it is called Sitel. But who authorised Pegasus is not known. Two of his mobile phones are currently being checked at Citizen Lab.
In the Q&A session, Puigdemont answers that it is of course possible that his wife was spied on in order to gain information about himself. Since he has been living in exile, he has taken precautions, put obstacles in their way, such as not using Spanish equipment. The same judge who issued the orders is the one who examined our appeal against them. This is a contradiction, a violation of certain legal guarantees. It is true that it is difficult to compensate victims. There is a lot of fake news about him, he has an account in Switzerland, he has met Russian spies. But there is no evidence, everything remains fake news. A judge from Barcelona has also issued a ruling on the matter. If desired, he would be happy to talk about it, but then in the EP Committee on Disinformation and Fake News.
See here the stream of today‘s hearing.