Pegasus Affair: Morocco Sues Amnesty Int’l for ‘Unlikely’ and ‘Unproven’ Spying Allegations

Written by | Tuesday, July 27th, 2021

Morocco has filed defamation claims against Amnesty International and the French media non-profit organization Forbidden Stories for their allegations that its intelligence services used the Israeli-made Pegasus mobile phone spyware against dozens of French journalists and even French president Emmanuel Macron, lawyers for the government said Thursday (22 July). Rabat – that Paris considers as a close ally in the fight against jihadism and the country its biggest trade partner – said Amnesty had not shown any evidence whatsoever linking Morocco to spying on journalists. “The Moroccan state … wants all possible light cast on these false allegations from these two organisations, who make claims without any concrete or demonstrative evidence whatsoever,” the lawyer, Olivier Baratelli, said in a statement. Paris prosecutors opened their own inquiry last week into these claims, revealed by media outlets including French daily Le Monde and The Washington Post. They are based on a leaked list of 50,000 phone numbers allegedly targeted by the Pegasus cellphone surveillance programme from Israel’s NSO Group.
Meanwhile, the Elysée Palace said that while “the president takes the subject very seriously and is following the progress of the investigation very closely,” it also stressed that “no certainty had emerged at this stage” that the allegations were true. For its part, Morocco has denied vehemently that it undertook any such actions or that it had purchased software to infiltrate mobile phones. “In this story, Morocco is a victim,” Chakib Benmoussa, Morocco’s ambassador to Paris, said, adding that “this is an attempt to destabilise.” France is Morocco’s foremost investment partner and has been a steadfast supporter of its interests in Western Sahara at the UN Security Council. Despite the potentially destabilising effect these allegations may have for the Morocco-French relations, the two countries will certainly want to contain the fallout for the sake of security co-operation, said observers.
It is unlikely that Morocco is using the Israeli software to spy on senior French officials, according to former head of the French Central Directorate of Domestic Intelligence (DCRI) Bernard Squarcini. In an interview with Europe1, Squarcini explained that he does not “believe too much” in the allegations against the North African country. “[The accusation] is too easy,” Squarcini said, adding that to simply point to Morocco as the mastermind behind the systematic spying operation is either disingenuous or diversionary. And should the allegations of spying on senior French officials prove true, he appeared to argue, there is a high probability that Morocco was not the source. “Morocco is a partner,” Squarcini said of the strong ties between Paris and Rabat, adding, “it [Morocco] is backed by other major countries, other major powers with which it cooperates.”

Article Categories:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.