Am 6. Oktober befragte der Staatstrojaner-Untersuchungsausschuss Europaabgeordnete, die Opfer von Staatstrojanern geworden sind.
Nachdem der Ausschuss zuvor bereits Journalist:innen und Aktivist:innen, die Opfer von Staatstrojanern wurden, angehört und die Verwendung von Staatstrojanern und deren Opfer in bestimmten Mitgliedstaaten (z. B. Polen und Griechenland) diskutiert hatte, befragte er diesmal Abgeordnete, die Opfer von Staatstrojanern geworden sind.
- Date: 2022-10-06
- Institution: European Parliament
- Committee: PEGA
- Chair: Jeroen Lenaers
- Experts: Diana Riba i Giner (Greens), Nikos Androulakis (Socialists and Democrats), Jordi Solé (Greens), Antoni Comín (Non-attached), Carles Puigdemont (Non-attached)
- Links: Hearing, Video
- Note: This transcript is automated and unofficial, it will contain errors.
- Editors: Julien Schat, Tim Wurster
Exchange with Members who have been targeted by spyware
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Dear colleagues, it’s 9:06 and we have a busy schedule today, so I would propose that everybody takes their seats so we can get started. Thank you. Thank you very much. Good morning, everybody. Welcome to all of the full and substitute members of our peacock committee. And of course, also a warm welcome to our guests. Today, we will hear the testimonies of members of the European Parliament that have been targeted either directly or indirectly with Pegasus or equivalent spyware. We have interpretation in German, English, French, Italian, Dutch, Greek, Spanish, Hungarian, Polish, Slovakian, Slovenian, Bulgarian and Romanian.
And I would like to move to the fourth point, which is the adoption of the agenda. If there is no comments on that, we consider it adopted. I need to make two announcements formally about decisions of the coordinators. I don’t think it escaped anybody’s attention, but at the figure coordinators meeting on the 30th of August, coordinators decided to hold a hearing on Greece on the eve of the Demo 2022 on a mission to Greece and Cyprus in November. And we mandated last Patrik back to represent the committee at the meeting of the Council of Europe in Belgium. So that is that. Mr. Zoido.
Juan Ignacio Zoido Álvarez (European People’s Party): Thank you, Chair, before we start today’s hearing. I’d like to. Say that following a. Breach. With news about this committee being leaked. I would like to call on the chair. And ask everyone, in fact, to be discreet. We shouldn’t be finding out about these kinds of leaks, undesirable leaks through the media, and that actually harms the credibility of this committee. So thank you, Chair. I’m glad that. You were able to smooth things over in the end.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Thank you, Mr. Zoido. I mean, I agree. I agree with you. I also have publicly stated this on Monday that it was disappointing specifically coming from a vice president of the parliament. I stated it. I also wrote a letter to President Metsola about it. I think the good thing, if we look at this from the good side, this was not a member of our committee. So I do think that within our committee also, everybody is aware and responsible with regard to the sensitive nature of our work. So I think we will we will be able to to prevent this in the future. Thank you.
Now, I would like to move without further delay to today’s agenda, because we have five distinguished guests, and the agenda is already tight as it is. It’s a somewhat unusual meeting today because we will be listening to our colleagues, colleagues that were in some way targeted by Pegasus or equivalent spyware. And I think it’s important to have this session because of the fact that we are talking about elected parliamentarians with connected rights and immunities. This makes, of course, quite this case is quite unique. We will hear from all five colleagues individually. So each and every one gets the same amount of time to exchange with the committee. And there’s also room to delve into the specifics of each individual case.
Now we have about 25 minutes per member and in contrast to many of our other guests, members of the Parliament should be very well accustomed to speaking for only one or 2 minutes. So 7 minutes will surely feel as a luxury already. So I propose to do 7 minutes for our members. Then a quick round of questions by those members who want to exchange in the exchange a few. And then you got the opportunity to respond. We will first hear from Nikos Androulakis, who was targeted with predator spyware. We will then continue by listening individually to our vice president, Diana Riba i Giner, our colleagues Jordi Solé and Antoni Comín who were targeted by Pegasus spyware. And we will conclude the session with Carles Puigdemont, who was the victim of indirect targeting through his close surroundings. So first colleague Androulakis. You have the floor for 7 minutes.
Nikos Androulakis (Socialists and Democrats): Thanks a lot, President…
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): So I don’t hear any English translation I’m looking at the interpreters.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Are we all right? Yes. Okay. Please.
Nikos Androulakis (Socialists and Democrats): Yes. It’s working now. Apologies. So I’d like to thank you for inviting us to take part in this hearing. And there had been checks on over 160 mobiles, the only one on which this software, this illegal spyware was found was mine. And in and last June. It was actually spotted a few days later. And I reported this to this to the Supreme Court, this attempt of hacking. And then a few days later I learnt that the authorities in charge of confidentiality had put pressure on the Government and that’s how I discovered that I had been followed by the intelligence services of my country. And in September 2021, up until mid December more or less, and there were a number of interesting coincidences that the Greek government tried to elude.
The first coincidence was that the Prime Minister had shifted the intelligence services and it then depended on a different office. The Prime Minister’s office and then the illegal surveillance of communication actually took place during that same period when that reshuffling was happening. This was in 2021. So we’re talking about events here that coincided in the same time period. The government doesn’t use Predator, but so I think I was being spied on by the intelligence services.
But in the PEGA committee, we’ve already seen how journalists some weeks ago have indicated that their mobiles have been hacked by predator spyware. So the question that we must ask ourselves is the period during which I was being spied on by the intelligence services who actually shares the electoral campaign period for my party. So it was the 12th of December 2021 when I was chosen as the chair of my party and. The surveillance. The spying on my telephone of my phone actually matched that particular period.
So the third coincidence that I’ve noticed is that the national intelligence services. You can justify their actions because they say it’s of national interest. But there are other third countries. We’ve talked about Armenia and Ukraine who could have requested that my phone be hacked. And so when this was made public, those two countries said that they had never made that kind of request. So I asked about this and to the government, why had I been spied on? But in the end of the day, I realised it could only have been happening for political reasons.
I’ve been an MEP for eight years and I’ve never been hacked. I have never been subject to Predator, Pegasus or any other spyware from third countries. But the minute I say that I’m going to stand for the Socialist Party, I suddenly realise that I’m a victim of phone hacking or wire tapping, and that the new democracy that’s in power has. Try to avoid making statements about this under different pretexts. They say they are being true to the letter of the law, and they have said that for confidential reasons. They cannot state whether they have been spying on someone or not. But at the same time, if statements have been made by those responsible for the intelligence service and they have stated that due to confidentiality, they don’t have to give any kind of explanation as to why this is happening. But this is all these are all excuses. We have a law from 2008 which allows the prime minister to. Request the intelligence services to lift that confidentiality, to provide an explanation. And I asked about this. But given the legal basis, they cannot give me further information about this. This is what I’ve been told by the government. I’ve been told to talk to this, to talk about this to the intelligence services, and that they will give me unofficial information.
So we’ve had informal conversations, but those really don’t mean anything because at the end of the day, I don’t trust the procedure as a whole. I don’t think anything legal or valid can come out of this. And we’ve had private discussions about this. They might say one thing in private and another thing in public. So if I if we can’t use the 2008 law, then we have to modify future laws to ensure that those who are spied on can receive information about what’s happened to them.
So as my piece in the committee, in the commission and the Council, we need to ask ourselves what we want to protect European values and live in a Europe where human rights are respected. They need to be the basis of a future. Or do we want to live in a Europe in which these kinds of practises that are undertaken by governments become commonplace? This is something that I can’t accept as a socialist. I really think we need to fight against this in order to protect European values. And we cannot allow this illegal spyware to be used to harm democracy. This is not a personal issue. This is about democratic principles. We need a framework that will guarantee a bright future for us and not a dark, gloomy future where oligarchs cling on to power and use these kinds of illegal practises. Thank you.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Will start with the questions and also ask colleagues to be brief. We start with Sophie in ’t Veld, our rapporteur. Yes, all of us who would like to speak, please indicate.
Sophie in ’t Veld (Renew): Okay. Thank you, Chair, and thank you, colleague four for being here to testify. I’m going to fire a number of questions on you very rapidly. You have been targeted with Predator, or rather, the government has admitted that it has been surveilling you for reasons that it hasn’t disclosed, but they have not admitted to using Predator.
Now, let’s say that that that is true, that it wasn’t the government. Then who else would have been willing to spend millions to acquire your predator in order to spy on you and a couple of journalists? What is your hypothesis then? There is there’s been a lot of there have been a lot of publications on the connexions between, let’s say, circles around the prime minister, in particular, his nephew, Mr. Dimitriadis, and key figures connected to Intellexa and Kriko. Can you say something about that? Because there seems to be a fairly direct connexion between Intellexa, defender of predator and the Prime Minister, or at least his office.
Third question, as far as I can see, there’s not really been an in-depth investigation of the officers of Intellexa, in Athens, or indeed in Cyprus and Ireland. Are you aware, have, for example, computers, servers, the administration been confiscated and are they being investigated? Then first question, we hear that your file has been destroyed. Can you say a little bit more about that? Because does that mean that it is you now rely entirely on the honesty of the Greek government to tell you what has happened? There is no proof anymore.
Final question. Are you aware of any other politicians from other political parties, including now democratically, if they have been targeted because we hear rumours about that and I think it would be very important to understand how Predator and the information obtained through Predator is being used.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Zoido.
Juan Ignacio Zoido Álvarez (European People’s Party): Thank you, Chair. Thank you, Mr. Androulakis, for speaking this morning. You. I’ve spoken to the media about the Greek government attempting to hide details about your case. However, of all the cases that we have been studying up until now from different EU countries. I would say that the Greek government has actually been the most transparent with this committee. Compared to other EU member states, many them. And without a doubt, Greece has taken the most drastic measures against this and acted immediately. Those responsible stood down and a number of changes and reforms were suggested in order to prevent this kind of thing happening again.
There might be technical aspects that we still have questions about regarding the intelligence services, for example, but. Could you please clarify why you don’t want to receive? An explanation from the intelligence services. You did give some information about this, but I think you perhaps would have been able to clarify a lot if you had requested further clarification from the intelligence services and given your responsibilities. Right now, I don’t understand why you’re trying to harm the reputation of the great government. I think members of your group and you yourself have done this before. You have tried to discredit the government in the past and. Your own group has called the Greek government an authoritarian regime and. In some cases, you’ve said that Greece is living in the Middle Ages. Do you actually think that’s true? Thank you.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Katarina Barley.
Katarina Barley (Socialists and Democrats): I think I was not the first from my group. But anyway, if if Iran doesn’t mind and as usual, Sophia has has asked all the questions that I also wanted to ask, as I just would like, like to add, although I have to say, I mean, with all due respect, but we’re at the moment talking about people who have been. I mean, stripped of all their privacy, you know, in a way that you wouldn’t wish the worst criminal to be treated. And I don’t know if if now, you know, giving the responsibility back to these people is the way we should treat this this case. And I still haven’t quite understood. I’m sorry. That might be me or be lost in translation. If the Greek government has now actually officially admitted that they were behind this or if this is just this thing. Okay, we’re going to speak to you. Have they officially said that they that they are behind this?
Then the other question would be, Sofia already mentioned that your that your file has been destroyed. As far as we have heard in this committee, this has also happened to to a journalist that also his files have been destroyed. Could you could you tell us a bit about the parallels between those two cases? Well, that was that the same the same sort of proof that has been destroyed? Was it the same period of time? How do you see the links between those two? And. Yeah, I think I would leave it to this. There are two other colleagues.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Thank you, Róża Thun.
Róża Thun und Hohenstein (Renew): Thank you, Chairman. So this is really a very complicated situation. Nikos, if I may allow myself, I must admit, because now so the government, I understand, says they have nothing to do about it. But if there is such a scandal like head of the head of the opposition party who is being bugged, why should we demand the this victim?
Now, this is a question to our friend Zoido Why should we demand this victim to take care of it if there is something, an institution that is called state prosecution and in such situations, in evident crimes, they take the initiatives themselves. No. If there is an evident crime that everybody knows about, not only in Greece, but also abroad, did anything happen? Your file was destroyed. Does anybody do any kind of investigation? I mean, no, the state institutions, special services, prosecution, etc., to clarify this. Who destroyed it? I mean, of course, first thing is, who bugged you? Where the data are? You know, who destroyed the file? Who destroyed the file? This is what would most interest me. Where are you contacted by? Only. What are you contacted by any state authority institution in order to cooperate with them, in order to clarify this case? Or was it left to you to take care of it? Thank you very much.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Thank you, sir.
Saskia Bricmont (Greens): Thank you, Chair, and thank you for your speech. I think it’s a very important moment for enquiry committee because no member of this institution, as far as we know, had been spied on up until now. So this is an issue that is becoming more and more significant. And today we are hearing and the opinion of our MEP and his privacy has been violated. So I would like to express my solidarity to him and to all those who have been victims of phone hacking, including journalists, because there are people, journalists who continue to be victims of spyware. I am very concerned about the erosion of the rule of law in Greece. And so I would like to ask you what’s happening with regard to judicial enquiries? Can we know more about your personal situation in that respect? And as an MEP, what have you done in these in this institution? Thank you.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Thank you, Mr. Gerogiou.
Giorgos Gerogiou (Left): Thank you. Following your request and that of others. Could you perhaps tell us something about what was done by the Committee of Enquiry? What exactly is on the cards? I also heard something that when the PEGA committee will be going to Greece. I mean, there will be fresh revelations. Do you have anything to say about that?
Łukasz Kohut (Socialists and Democrats): Thank you. Chair for the floor. Their members victims of illegal infiltrations represent present many countries such as Hungary and Greece. In Poland, this anti-terrorist cyber weapon was targeted against the chief of the electoral staff and member of the Polish Parliament. Just a blazer. Mr. Androulakis from Greece, as well as Mr. Brezhnev from Poland, were leaders of opposition parties. Illegal infiltration is like disease, which poisoned many countries. However, the reaction of state institutions is crucial in order to prevent the development of the infection. The essence is the resilience of democratic institutions.
Sadly, Polish authorities have not reacted properly to the violation of Mr. Suppressor rights and even they are not interested in clarifying the matter at all. Therefore, I would like to ask about the reaction of Greece authorities facing serious allegations. As we know, last Friday you testified in front of the enquiry committee at the Greek parliament. Can you give us an update on the works of the committee there in in Greece? Additionally, next month they will visit Greece. What are your suggestions concerning the upcoming mission in your country? And the last question, what happened to the companies that are related to Predator? Thank you very much.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Thank you, Ms.. Neuman.
Hannah Neuman (Greens): Thank you so much. And I mean, one thing is quite clear. If you’re being spied upon, especially if you have parliamentary immunity, this means a lot of loss of trust into the state institutions that are supposed to protect you and that either spied on you or failed to protect you. So for me now the question is and you just send us a representative for the many other victims. Who do you turn to? I mean, do you turn to the very same state institutions that you think spied on you? Or is there any other kind of structure, ombudsperson whatsoever, either in Greece or on European level that you think you could turn to and that could protect you? And if there is none, what is the kind of support that you as a victim would hope to to get? That’s the first question.
And the second question is you a member of the European Parliament? We have seen so often in the in in the hearings that we had, that this spying is a national issue. So it’s national institutions that are either in charge of protecting you or in charge of not spying on you. But as a member of European Parliament, do you expect also some kind of European institutions to investigate in this and to make sure that this doesn’t happen to you?
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Thank you. And then finally, Mr. Del Blanco.
García del Blanco (Socialists and Democrats): Thank you, Chair. First of all, on behalf of our coordinator, who. Wasn’t able to be here today. I’d like to express my solidarity. For these very difficult circumstances that you’re going through. And I’d also like to say as an aside, that we in the different committees should discuss this on the same day, because when when all of these topics are discussed or different topics discussed on same day makes this very difficult to organise our schedule.
And I’d like to discuss two very specific points. As far as we know, you testified last week in the Greek parliament in a special committee, if I’m not mistaken, which was set up to study this specific issue. And I’d like to know what your impression is of how this work is moving forward, whether it’s actually making a difference. What is your general impression of this? And the second question, as others have mentioned, have mentioned, there is going to be a mission to Greece undertaken by this committee. And I’d like to know what institutions or which people do you think should be visited? What are the essential visits we should make? Thank you.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Thank you very much. And the floor goes back to Mr. Androulakis for another 7 minutes to try and reply to all the questions, I wish you good luck.
Nikos Androulakis (Socialists and Democrats): I don’t know who’s using Predator in my country. I mean, there are security services in in my country who have got to determine who is using it, not the face up to the victim to say why they were spied on. It’s the government. It’s the security services who have got to discover why. What was the reason for spying on me? We need reasons of national interest. But what were they exactly? Spying on a politician who’s a candidate for one of the opposition parties. So you’ve got these arguments which are used. By us and people like that. And these are things which are worrying for us because these are arguments which we hear bandied about in the countries of South America and. I love my country much more than the people who’ve sent in this kind of question, because I would never do this to send to this kind of practise, to expose my tricks to to to expose my country in this way.
Now, there was the presence of a representative of the companies involved, and they said that in 2017, they got €5,000. And then the company was set up for €5,000 and then Cyprus had entered into an agreement with the government and then the Mitsotakis government took it further. And ensuring the gatherings of the Committee of Enquiry in Greece. The government then refused. To. Send a representative. So we’re talking about a company which suited for us. I’ve had a contract of a million with with under Mitsotakis was 5 million. And there was also the appointment of the son of the representative to the board of this company. And so there are obviously certain certain people who don’t want to shed any light on this. Now. I was the only person who appeared before the Committee of Enquiry. There was no minister that. Because now a Democratia and protected them. And they protected the companies as well. I was the only one there. So the only thing I’m asking is that. There’s light shit on this.
When you are in Athens, please try and meet these people too to extract more information because I can’t get it. I mean, informally, informal information is meaningless. In these rooms, in these chambers, we have asked Ms.. Could Mr. Androulakis could come to you to offer more information. And now Mr. Dimiris, who is the new head of the security services, has said, no, it’s illegal. Can’t do that. Sorry.
Now. I can’t do anything illegal to then assume the responsibility of the Greek government. So, Mr. Mitsotakis said during a meeting it was actually in an interview to the Sunday Times. He said, Oh, he didn’t know why. He knew nothing about why the spying took place, but there seemed to be a link with the Socialist Party. So where was this for political reasons or other reasons? The Prime Minister has said he doesn’t know why this spying took place and perhaps this is but this is a legally unsafe because how could he not know the reasons for this spying? He has sent his nephew, who was the general secretary. He’s also dismissed the person responsible, the head of the security services, and he doesn’t know why this took place. Is he really in the dark? Otherwise, why would he have dismissed these people? And if we hear officially, well you can get, you can get information with one of the Minister, Mr. Treaties to get more in-depth information. And then a couple of days later the Prime Minister turns around and says, oh no, I don’t know anything about it. So it seems that absolutely no one wants to assume any responsibility.
I just want transparency, clarity from the government, but also from the European Parliament. Because it’s about our values. Our values are at stake. Some people’s values change. Depending on the. Depending on. The circumstances, but we have got universal values and we’ve got to be consistent. We can’t accept these kind of phenomena in Europe which attack our values.
And then there’s another question which concerned which concern the law. The. And the legal process is here. We don’t know what the prosecution services are doing. Perhaps they’re working. We’ll hear about it. There have been enquiries, but unfortunately there was no desire to make progress. And that’s why I hope that you will be able to make progress when you come to Greece. Yes. The whole dossier was torn up. It was destroyed. I’ll tell you why. Because the security services have set up a spying action in principle for two months. Now, if they want to obtain an extension, it means that they have had got the go ahead. Why was this launched on the date that it was launched? It’s because we’re going to have our elections in November. But unfortunately, the head of our party died in a tragic way a few months before. And that’s why we had an extension. So there was a fresh deadline for the elections. So there were further there was a further two months of spying, and they were supposed to say, okay, we’ve come up with this and this is why we’ve been able we’ve had a reason for prolonging this. But now they cannot justify it. They have no reasons for this.
So. I’m afraid I can’t answer all the questions. I don’t know if any other politicians were spied on. You can just see what was. I can also read what was said in the press about Predator and about the security services. But I would like measures to be taken. Legislative measures. Some have been taken. But. Well, I’m let me just look at my notes.
So to wind up. So I think. And just having heard the other colleagues as well that increase. Um, this we’ve had this event, which has never occurred before over the last few years. We’ve never had anything like this. There was an attempt basically, well, compared with previous governments, but who has whoever has perpetrated similar acts has got to be prosecuted. Prosecuted. And look, put yourselves in my position as a, as your colleagues, an MEP. I want to be able to start this off. And I think that what’s really important is that the government that the basic fact is that I was being spied upon and at the same time, I was under I was being spied on with Predator. And that’s simply a fact. And I think that this has got to be taken into account and we’ve got to do the necessary in order to ensure that there is transparency. And some people feel they’re above the law. But we’ve got to get the message across that the European Parliament will not allow them to to get away with this because no one is above the law. So. Whoever is responsible has got to face the law.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Well, Mr. Androulakis. I’m going to make a small exception here, which I’m not normally doing, but Eva Kaili has unfortunately do not like. But since he was the Vice President is responsible for the service in the Parliament. I want to give you the floor still for a very brief.
Eva Kaili (Socialists and Democrats): Thank you President. Yes, because actually the service of the parliament started to unbundle this situation and hopefully we have almost half of the members of the European Parliament approaching such a service. So in this regard, I think and I hope if we cannot do more, we definitely have to continue in extending the service even to journalists to deter any further efforts and maybe starting from Greece to have such a service. And this is there. So I would say it’s unforgivable to not have at least Greece leading in terms of cybersecurity and just the common because we were all talking to Nikos Androulakis during the elections.
So this means we were all exposed into surveillance of our personal communications. I think it seems that the coincidence and the convenience of the timing is what increases the importance in comparison to other cases. So I would just like to ask a final question. I know he referred to that, but more specific, what can our committee do and succeed in order to give light, full transparency to this case and for the future to be able to create a methodology for all the member states to avoid any abuse because we talk about abuse of power.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Thank you. And I thought very briefly because out of respect, we also need to have enough time for all the other guests today.
Nikos Androulakis (Socialists and Democrats): Well, what I’m saying is that the prosecutors got to do their work and the committee of enquiry has got to do what the Committee of enquiry in Greece did not do, because we’ve got to try and grasp the whole extent of the situation. There was a scandal. The fact that Predator was used and the other scandal was the fact that there was a cover up. So I really hope that you’re going you’re going to be able to do everything in your power to take the Greek prosecutors to task and to ensure that this is resolved.
Now, I was not the only person spied upon. And because through me, some of you were spied on. Because when we’re in the when we’re in during the electoral campaign, we talk to other politicians. And so they’ve got this map, if you like. They can see the my network. Anyone in contact with me. And obviously that attacks basic democratic values. I’m here if you need to. If you want to get if you want to ask me anything, I’ll help in any way I can. But I think this is an opportunity for improving things in Europe to put an end to this kind of illegal practise, whether we’re talking about Greece or whether we’re talking about another country where our children cannot grow up in a Europe where opacity rules and where democracy is being eroded because of certain leaders who want to do anything to hold onto power.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Come into come up to the stage and we move into the next.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Okay, dear colleagues, we move to the second part of our meeting with Diana, Riba, Jordi Solé and Antoni Comí. We’ve agreed with our guests also in order to avoid maybe repetitive questions that they will make a statement of 7 minutes, and we’ll do one round of questions where you can address questions both to all three of them together, but also to our colleagues individually. And then we have more time also for answering the question. So it is my pleasure to first give the floor to the vice president of our committee, Diana Riva.
Diana Riba i Giner (Greens): Thank you. First of all, I’d like to thank the committee for organising this. And I’d like to thank the Secretariat for arranging the hearings so that we can focus on the specific cases of the use of spyware on MEPs. I will try not to be repetitive because a lot of what the previous colleague has said also affects us here in the same way. And I also. Like to highlight this idea that we have to be very democratic in the European Parliament and in Europe and we have to continue to fight against this and work in order to maintain a Europe that is based on rights and freedoms. And unfortunately, we are identifying these cases and that’s why we’ve had to set up this Pegasus committee.
And I’m going to start by mentioning a specific case. It was the first notification, the first moment I realised something was happening on my phone. It was the 28th of October 2019, it was a Monday morning and I started the day with a call from an assistant at the European Parliament. It was a very long phone call and when the phone call ended the assistant received an anonymous phone call and it was a recording of the conversation that we just had. And at that moment I realised that I’ve been a victim of Pegasus. I think the mobile was infected and a copy of everything was being made and the entire conversation that we’d had had been recorded. And at that point the services of the party that I represent started to investigate what was actually going on.
I wasn’t the only person affected by this in Catalonia. In the media, we were starting to see private conversations being leaked. WhatsApp conversations between leaders of the party were also being leaked and so we realised that something strange was going on. We didn’t know it was Pegasus that was responsible, but we knew something was happening. And on the 28th of October 2019, that was actually a crucial moment in my personal and professional life as an MEP. I was working in the European Parliament and it was important because it was just following the ruling for the pro-independence Catalan leaders.
My husband in one is one of them and he was condemned to 12 years in prison and the audio from carers also received a sentence of 13 years in prison. Those were days that were important for us for personal reasons. We were discussing the strategy with lawyers. My husband was involved in a legal process and it was also an important time for the European Parliament because up until now, up until that point, Aurelian got us a seat was empty. So he was never able to leave the prison in order to fulfil his mandate. And we were discussing issues with lawyers at that time, but we were also discussing matters with the team, with President Sassoli here at the Parliament to understand what was going to happen to his seat and what would happen to his political rights following that sentence. And so. That was the first case of surveillance that I noticed on my phone.
And then it happened again. Another infection was detected on the 4th of June 2019, and that was when the current mandate was starting. And I was spied on during the first two weeks of that mandate, which was in that week. Just to give you some background, we were in the middle of the court case with the pro-independence leaders, and during those dates you can imagine the number of visits to the court that were necessary in order to accompany both my husband and other colleagues. And we were also trying to downplay what would happen with real democracy. He had just been nominated and he needed to be given authorisation permission in order to collect his his badge. So that was the background at the time. And by spying on me, they were also spying on Roma without my partner and on others in. Like our religion. Get us in this situation. This is currently being archived, ie it’s been temporarily archived and the judge has said that they’re not able to establish who the perpetrator is yet and that Israel isn’t providing the information that’s been requested.
Another colleague who has been spied on reminded the judge that there. There is a need for this to be resolved as quickly as possible through an investigation or an enquiry. And this attitude is very different to the attitude of the judges involved in investigating these spying on the Spanish president. That court case is moving along very quickly, very effectively. We’re seeing how the court cases, which should be happening at the same time, are not moving along at the same speed.
And I also wanted to discuss my own case. It’s part of cattle and gate 65. Victims of spyware have been identified. The president of the sharing alternate political leaders are included in this. Agents and of the people involved in the General Assembly in Catalonia. So we’re talking about a massive case which we’ve been involved in since 2015. That’s when we detected the first case of the use of spyware up until 2020. And so we’re really dealing with a very big case that is involves. Lots of different victims. It all started with Ritalin. And in this Marguerite, who I’m sure you know, in July 2020, started to publish the first cases of spyware. And it ended in April of this year when The New Yorker published the article on Catalan Gate. We have a series of priorities, the priorities my colleagues also talked about, the difficulties that we faced. Victims need to be acknowledged as victims in the European Parliament. This happens, but in Europe we want to be recognised as victims. The Spanish government and other members of the Opposition like the People’s Party.
And you have and also saying that this is a legal case because there are warrants for this, but this is not true. They say that 18 of the 65 cases of hacking are part or are covered by a warrant. But that’s not true because I’m not one of those 18 people. So I don’t know who has spied on me, why they’ve spied on me, and what information they have and why. So this is. Legally, not a valid argument. And if a judge has supposedly authorised that, I be spied on. I am asking you, how is this possible in the European Union? That would be even more scandalous that a judge were to order this. So I would like to make some very specific requests and perhaps in. The questions.
I can go into more detail, but I would like this committee of enquiry to have to establish a protocol for helping MEPs who have been affected by this. We need a protocol to establish what needs to be done in the European Parliament when a MEPs are affected by spyware. I would also like to ask this committee to. Ask the President of the European Parliament to ask NSO if she has been directly a victim of surveillance. I understand that they can undertake a study to establish whether someone has been the victim of spyware or not, and we need to also discuss cross-border issues. I have been spied on while I was in Brussels.
So. How should we act in these cross-border surveillance cases or espionage cases? And I also. With everything that we know, with everything we’ve seen about spyware that affects Catalans, we need to have a mission to Spain. We need to understand why in Spain there isn’t a committee of enquiry established as it has been established in other countries. And we have to understand why. The institutions in Spain or wherever they are are spying on us and what information they have on us. Thank you.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Thank you, Mr. Solé.
Jordi Solé (Greens): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for giving me the opportunity to speak today with you both as MEP and victim of Pegasus as well. And now I will switch into into Spanish. Who gave the order to infect my phone with Pegasus spyware and to then access all my information? You know very well that nowadays our entire lives are on our devices. So what kind of legal basis was there for this intrusion, if there even was any legal basis? Where is the information that was gathered on me or stolen actually from my phone? Why did they want this information? How much public, how many how much in public funds was spent on this illegal intrusion? These are some of the questions that came to mind this month.
Well, when? In March this year. Citizen Lab established that my phone had been attacked with Pegasus spyware twice during the month of June 2020. Then during a Nazi investigation, five attacks were identified during the month of June 2020. And I think it’s important to highlight in my case that I actually found out by accident that I had been spied on using spyware. I actually had no clue, contrary to my colleague Diana, that my phone something was wrong with my phone. I actually realised because a team of journalists were recording a documentary on. Spyware. And they wanted to record live. How an intrusion or infection was detected on a mobile phone of an MEP or an MP in general. Sir, along with a colleague from my party, we went to have our phones analysed by Citizen Lab. And we were accompanied by a team of journalists who were filming us. No infections were detected on my colleague’s phone, but two were detected on my phone and this was actually filmed live. And that’s how I found out that I was being spied on.
Which leads me to believe that if I found out completely by chance, then. Those cases that we’re aware of are just the tip of the iceberg because. If I hadn’t by chance. Found out through this documentary that my phone had been infected. And I think you’ll be able to see this documentary soon. I wouldn’t know. I wouldn’t know that my phone was infected. And so that is the situation that probably a lot of politicians, colleagues or others find themselves in, in Catalonia specifically. In my case, the attacks took place during the month of June 2020. And at that point in time, as my colleague was saying. We were internally discussing within my party what we would do with the vacant seat that belonged to John Kerry’s. And that. He couldn’t occupy because the Spanish authorities had made it clear that they didn’t want him to. So we were discussing the party strategy in relation to that seat that. Audio. John Kerry’s had Democratically won and we were also internally discussing. The party’s strategy with regard to international litigation. We were trying to establish the next steps. In order to defend the rights of political prisoners, those in exile. And how to. Report the repression of the pro-independence movement by the Spanish government.
And so this is a very clear case of political espionage. The idea was to gather information. About a political strategy of about a democratic political movement, which is legitimate. The intention was to gather information in order to get ahead of us and of what we were planning to do. And understand what was going to happen with our seat in Parliament and what we were going to do in terms of litigation. So this goes against democracy and pluralism. I really want to focus on the extent of this Catalan scandal. Obviously, even if just one person is spied on, whether they be a politician, a lawyer, a journalist and activist. That’s already one too many. That’s already a serious issue. But in our case, we’re talking about. Espionage. That affects 65. Confirmed cases. This has been confirmed by experts that have used a number of different techniques to prove this.
I also wanted to. Focus on a specific issue, which is the legal authorisation or judicial authorisation. I don’t know yet whether the. My phone hacking was approved by the government. Whether there was legal justification for this. If that wasn’t the case, then we’re dealing with illegal activity here. But even if there was, it’s still a massive scandal. Because I wonder what judge is able to authorise this and what arguments can be used to justify spying on me and others. Oh. Because we represent those who have voted for us. We represent a democratic ideology and. We want to represent or establish a political programme and I want to understand what the legal standing is. How can a judge justify this action? Because if I think this is a misuse of the law in this case, if there is legal standing because spyware is being used to undermine a legitimate political ideology and to challenge. And we perhaps need it’s a challenge for Spanish democracy, and this needs to be resolved with democracy and not with spying and not with judicial authorisation.
And I’m going to end on this point of national security because. We might we might end up being told that we can’t obtain more information about our cases because this is classified information that affects national security. If this is the case, even though I hope it’s not. But if it is. Last week I testified in Barcelona before the court as a victim and I hope that they there is a further investigation of this. But if we are faced with this national security argument, which is like a black hole, then I think we need to define things very clearly. And there have to be rules that force the authorities to define what national security actually is. Because if someone alleges that this is a national security case when it comes to cancelling it, then I think with. This is an attack on the legal system and on democracy because we are not a threat in this sense. And if this allegation were made, if this argument were put forward, then we would be facing a serious case of legal uncertainty and democratic uncertainty. Thank you.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Thank you. And then before I pass the floor to Mr. Comín, please, also for the people who want to participate in the Q&A indicated to us. Mr. Comín, you have the floor.
Antoni Comín (Non-attached): Tanks, Chair. I am actually going to present you with four questions and then I’m going to draw some conclusions. Some of the questions or issues have already been put forward by my colleagues. But first of all, I’d like to ask who spied on me? The director of the National Intelligence Service testified before the Spanish Parliament and in and what was said in the committee was leaked to the media, and she admitted that 18 people had been spied on. She admitted that 18 people had been spied on. And there was a judicial authorisation from the Supreme Court for this, according to Citizen Lab. There are up to 65 people who have been hacked. And they are part of the pro-independence movement in Catalonia. I have been spied on according to Citizen Lab, but I am not on the list of those 18 people, according to the leaks to the Spanish media. And so I don’t know who spied on me. Only states have access to Pegasus services. So what body within the Spanish government has spied on me? I think that this committee has the duty to ask this question of the Spanish government. Which Spanish government body has spied on me or my colleagues? On Jordi Solé on Diana? We are MEPs, so who has spied on us? That is the first Question. And. We still don’t know the answer to this. If it wasn’t the National Intelligence Centre, who was it?
And my colleagues have already asked the second question What was the legal basis for this surveillance? If there ever was a legal basis. So there’s a law that allows surveillance through the National Intelligence Centre and that authorisation has to be granted by a judge specifically in the Supreme Court. But this wasn’t the case or it wasn’t the case for me in my case. There was judicial was the judicial authorisations, yes or no? And if there was, then I go back to Jodi’s arguments. If there was judicial authorisation, what was the legal basis? Where were the arguments? How could this be justified and why? What have I done? For a judge to authorise this, I want to know what have I done exactly to deserve this? If there has actually been judicial authorisation to hack my phone. Is it because of my ideas? Has this been authorised? And if it has. How can you justify hacking my phone? Is it because I’m pro-independence? Is this compatible with the values enshrined in the Treaty of the European Union? Does that justify. Can you justify spying on someone because of their political ideas? This is a question that we should ask of the Spanish government. We should ask them whether there has been surveillance and whether. It has been authorised legally or not. And whether that is compatible with the values of the Treaty of the European Union. That’s my second question.
The third question is at what point when exactly have I been spied on? And actually, I can answer this question. I don’t have to ask the Spanish state about this, although I like to ask them so they can confirm it. But I can tell you that I was spied on because the forensic analysis of citizenship has actually established exactly when I was spied on. So I was spied on. Well, one of the times when I know was spied on, I don’t know if that’s the only time, but I was spied on in January 2020 and what was going on in January 2020. Just a few days earlier, we had been admitted as employees. And when I say us, I mean pushed him and myself. And so we had immunity, which allowed us to move around safely in European countries. This is an immunity that the Spanish government still doesn’t respect. We are able to travel around all EU member states apart from Spain for now and taking advantage of this.
In the pro-independence movement we decided to hold an event in Perpignan in the south of France on the border with Catalonia, and it was a huge event. More than 200,000 people attended. In fact, it was the last mass event that was celebrated in Europe before the COVID lockdowns. So it was just a few days before, in fact, France imposed a lockdown. And I was fired on at that point. And I was coordinating this event. I was organising it on behalf of the organisation that was in charge of it. So. I was working closely with the Ministry of the Interior of France. Who? Helped us, Senator. To celebrate this huge event here was this person also helped us to secure the event. And this was an event attended by European citizens that came from the south of the French Spanish border. So they were travelling to this event and there was the French Ministry of the Interior at that point was negotiating with me personally and with the team to establish those conditions so that people could exercise their rights of freedom of movement. And during those dates, a body within the Spanish government decided that it was necessary to spy on me. Popi to obtain information about how this event was being organised. And I think this is very telling. If we see this comparison, we see that the French government was collaborating and helping us in order to organise an event where our rights would be protected and the Spanish government was doing something completely different. We don’t know which border it was. I don’t know whether we probably wasn’t the Secret Services or the National Intelligence Centre, but whether they had judicial authorisation or not, they were spying on my phone.
And the fourth and last question is. What’s going to be done with the information? That has been obtained through spyware. Because we have the problem here. What information do they have? What’s going to be done with that information? And I am coming to a close now. This is a very important issue. The Official Secrets Act allows that the information that the government considers to be sensitive. Doesn’t have to be shared and can be kept as classified information forever is a law that dates back to 1968 to the Franco era. And. So the Spanish democracy is working with an Official Secrets Act that predates the democracy. And this this sensitive information should be declassified, but it can’t because of the Official Secrets Act. And so. I think today. We have to state clearly that this is incompatible with European values. The State was the first one to by Pegasus, in fact, under the paid government. Mr. Zoido was the Minister of the Interior and. It’s. The State which has used Pegasus most widely and in all the member states since 2019 and this makes use of Pegasus has been targeted or has targeted a pro-independence movement, and this is completely incompatible with European values. This is betrayal with betraying the values of the European Union. Thank you.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Thank you very much. We have a lot of members wanting to take the floor. I have in ‚t Veld, Zoido, Del Blanco, Thun, Bricmont, Ernst, Novak Kolaja, Kouloglou, Cañas and Barley. And then I close the speakers list and I really ask colleagues to be as brief as possible to also allow for time to answer the questions first. Sophie in ’t Veld.
Sophie in ’t Veld (Renew): Yes, thank you, Chair, and thanks to our colleagues like Mr. Androulakis for coming here and testifying. I think it is useful colleagues to indeed remember that we are talking about members of this House who have been hacked, not just spied upon hacked, and that means that the European Union institution has been targeted. A few quick questions. You said at the start, Mr. Comey, that you do not know what has been done to the information in the sense of how the information has been stored or what information. But have you ever have you ever noticed that information that has been obtained with Pegasus that it was used in some context, that it was made public, that somebody had information on you that could have only been obtained from your from your phone, etc.. So have you ever noticed that then? I understand it is incredibly difficult to get some form of legal redress because I understand there have been 30 legal complaints, but so far not one of them has been taken up by by a court. Can you say something about that? Then I was told that there a judicial warrant had apparently been issued for 18 out of the 65 cases. It had been issued by the Supreme Court, by a specialised judge, if I understand correctly. But you have no access to that warrant, so you don’t know what’s in it. But I understand the Ombudsman has been allowed to to assess the warrants. Annulments fund concluded that it was justified, but you nor your lawyers get access to this information. All 65, I understand, were in contact with the the people in exile. Can you confirm that that is indeed the case then? And I think we have a colleague in the room who may be able to say more about that. Is it can it be verified when Pegasus was acquired? Can you find do you have, you know, access to information as we do here? Can you get to the budget information and can you see when it has been acquired and what the justification given was at the time to last points? Can you say something about I mean, there must be an independent oversight body over two secret services, at least on paper. We know that in many countries, oversight over secret services is.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Please be brief Sophie.
Sophie in ’t Veld (Renew): Yes, I am coming to a conclusion. Is there any recourse to them? And then finally a remark. It seems that there was a Dutch citizen who was a provider of i.t services for the 2017 referendum and there seemed to be indications that the person was also targeted. So that makes it even more cross-border.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Thank you, Mr. Zoido.
Juan Ignacio Zoido Álvarez (European People’s Party): Thank you very much to. If you’ll allow me. I’d actually like to speak a lot longer because three people have addressed us today and they’ve touched on different issues. But I’m going to try and be as brief as possible.
First of all, I believe, quite honestly, that if you’re trying to lecture the Spanish government on the rule of law, then. Well, that’s very difficult to justify. I. I want to know. What do you mean by saying we’ll do it again in Spain? We don’t persecute ideologies, but we do go we do persecute those who are trying to violate the Constitution or those who infringe the law. You have given your version of events and you have linked everything with the secessionist process in Catalonia, and you’ve talked about Catalan gate, and I am going to also give my version of events and following lots of circumstances. And after many years when the secessionist movement started in Catalonia in 2012, approximately. Support for independence in Catalonia was around 57%, according to the Catalan government. Ten years later, according to the same sources, it barely reached 40% of Catalans who were in favour of independence. So does that mean that your project has failed or could it possibly have failed? I can assure you. You have been incapable of gaining social support. You haven’t been able to maintain a government coalition. That’s clear. And now it seems that you are playing the victim and you are holding on to this Catalan gate scandal.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): I didn’t I didn’t give you the floor, Sophie and I with all.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): No, no, no. But excuse me. You.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): I can’t hear you because I know my headphones on. And also you. I didn’t give you an.
Hannah Neumann (Greens): We are discussing spyware here, not the Catalan mess.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Including in the previews on people have not literally sticked always to the exact topic of the conversations. I have not been strict on this. I’ve given some some leeway and I’m giving the same to Mr. Zoido at the moment, and all three speakers will have the opportunity to respond to this later. I ask everybody to stick as much as we can to the topic of the hearing, but we cannot be selectively selective in deciding who is allowed to be more broader in his approach and who is not, because you have all done it in the past as well. So, Mr. Zoido, please conclude because we have limited time.
Juan Ignacio Zoido Álvarez (European People’s Party): It seems that some people have the right to speak and maybe others less so. But this scandal, I have to say, hasn’t been discovered by chance. This has been a political manoeuvre which has been orchestrated. And I’m going to explain why. Months before the publication of the report. You already had registered a website. You had recorded an advert, you already had a Pegasus communication campaign. And so we shouldn’t be surprised by this. When one of the authors of the technical report was Mr. Elias Campos, a secessionist activist.
And so I would like to know the following, first of all. Did Ms. Riba? And Jordi Solé have you been called? Because we’re very we’re very concerned about whether. Others have been called on to ask their governments for an explanation. I know that there was a commission in Spain and I don’t know whether you know anything more or not. If you don’t know, then. Please don’t say anything so that we can respect the confidentially of the comments that were made. But I’d like to know whether they’ve been in touch with you. Even though. I would also like to know whether or when did you decide that you would film a documentary and set up a website about Catalan and what? Information do you have? Sorry, I’m. These are very specific questions I’m concluding now. Have you presented your phones? Have you submitted them so that other independent experts can analyse them or have only citizen lab? Been able to analyse your phones and if this is, I’m coming to an end now. If we have a Spanish government that infringes so many rights. But you continue to support them. Does that mean you’re complicit and. Oh, are you? Yes. Sorry, I want to. I’m just just going to make a final comment. I’m really sorry because I’m not going to ask any further questions to Mr. Puigdemont or Mr. Comín, because I think they should go to Spain and give an explanation.
Ibán García Del Blanco (Socialists and Democrats): Yes. Thank you very much. First of all, I’d like to. Show my respect towards those who are victims of these attacks. We’re talking about fundamental rights. And this is a very delicate topic. It also affects democracy. And so I would request a great deal of transparency in any investigation. We need to understand what really happened, whether there was a legal basis for it or not. And if that’s not the case, and there have to be consequences and. I from what I have understood from the speakers, I understand that they have exercised their rights to go to court and they’ve requested an investigation, which I think is the right way to proceed in this case. I would be very cautious when discussing those facts which are proven or not, because there are sources in this. Case, which I may be slightly dubious. The parent company of Pegasus. It’s not certain whether they give you reliable information or not. There’s a lot that we don’t know. There’s a lot that we still need to investigate when it comes to this type of surveillance. We know that members of the Spanish government have been investigated, but we don’t know by who yet. So we have to be very cautious.
And I think we need to discuss all of this in order to understand the background and. I’d like to highlight that these investigations or hypothetical investigations don’t come from nowhere. The circumstances occurred in my country that were very complicated, that affected the Constitution. And so there was an investigation. There was a lawsuit. And there are some people that are still have to take part in these law legal proceedings. But I just think it’s important to understand the background when discussing these specific cases.
And as Mr. Zoido said, in Spain, we don’t persecute ideas. We persecute those who have committed crimes. And in. Catalonia there. There are no legal proceedings against the pro-independence movement at the moment. And I’d like to ask the following question previously. You talk to her about everything that’s happened up until now and since 2020. You haven’t, actually. Received any news about any espionage. I’d like to know whether you’ve received any update or any indication that from 2020 there have still been more hacking of your private devices.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Róża Thun.
Róża Thun und Hohenstein (Renew): Thank you chair. Um, so, you know, I see that most of those who are politically involved in the. Someone disappeared. Doesn’t matter, because really it’s difficult to see here the very clear cut between Spanish politics or not. But what really this committee is interested in is to clarify if Pegasus or any other devices were used legally or not legally. And if you say that there were 65 victims in the cup in this Catalan gate this year, called it, 18 were added, 18 were bugged due to a decision of the judges. And the two of you were all I would be interested. Are you on the list of those 18 or not? So none of you saw any decision of the judges? And do you know anything more about those 18? I mean, how those decisions are issued and the grounds. Did anybody see those decisions? But in any case, as far as you know, there were no such decisions in the 65 -18 the in those cases.
Secondly, I would be interested. Yes. Sofia asked also if those information was used in any other public way. For example, we were in Poland recently, and in Poland those the information or the content that the those who used Pegasus, what they gathered, they used it, for example, in heats on the Internet. Exactly the content that they gathered from banking or they used it on public television in order to ridicule or whatever the person who was a victim. Did anything like this happen in your case? This was this content used publicly in order to harm you in the public opinion. And the last questions are about buying of the specs as well. So I understand that it was, as the information says, that it was acquired by the government, the Pegasus in 2015. But do you do we know how it was used? Was it used in according to its reason of existence? You know, Pegasus is exists in order to defend us against heavy crimes. Do you know anything about this being used according to the reason for which it was bought officially, at least? Or do you know if it was used already then against the politician, journalists or whoever? Because your cases, as far as I understand, started in 2019. Thank you very much.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Thank you. Bricmont.
Saskia Bricmont (Greens):Very much. I’d just like to express my solidarity towards you, your family and your assistance as well, because you explained how things went. And it’s really our institution that has been affected and its staff. And I think we’ve absolutely got to follow this up. And you said, Mrs. Ripa, that there’s a specific A.P. protocol. Could you perhaps say something more about that? And then Mr. Suey to look. There are several strands when you look at the reactions of governments who have used spyware illegally, and that is national security and national security slogan. And no, it’s not possible to go and get more information because of national security. And the other thing is that we’ve heard that there was a mandate for this, but you have said that you are not on the list in your case. So I think we were able to talk to the Greek justice minister shortly because we’re going there and we’ll be able to have a look at the various we’ll be able to have a look at the authorisation. And then we should also have a mission to Spain to directly talk to the responsible authorities and get information. Because if each government is acting illegally, legally, as they claim, well, there would be no problem being transparent. And so the committee of enquiry, all the necessary information so that something can be done, but we might well have major doubts regarding the legality of the steps taken. Thank you.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Cornelia Ernst.
Cornelia Ernst (Left): Thank you. So I’ve got one question. Regarding these this spying, the spyware. It’s functionality. Now we know that the members involved. Were targeted. Is it possible that your microphones and cameras were activated remotely? To spy on you while you were in Parliament or when you were at home where you were aware of any kind of of this kind of functionality. And then do you know if the Spanish authorities use Pegasus? Are you aware of this? All the cyber. Devices which have been used by the intelligence services, because we’ve got to all by the police because we have got that possibility in Germany. He also said that there were 65 Catalan victims. 18 were covered by authorisation from the legal authorities. But what was the reason for this? Because usually it’s illegal. And what about the other people amongst those 65? Do you know what the situation is? And how are intelligence services in Spain supervised? Is there what what’s the procedure that. And what are the enquiries? What was the supervision? Although the investigations of the intelligence services themselves. I’m asking this questions because there really should be some kind of monitoring of the intelligence services. For the moment, I’m still in the dark about all of this.
Ljudmila Novak (European People’s Party): Thank you. Now the problem regarding all the hardware is that it’s very, very easy to in these days. I don’t know if I don’t really know when everyone if someone’s spying on me, but I have been to say I don’t know whether I’ve been there. I know that I was a victim of spying, but I wasn’t able to prove it. But then some people were able to get the information and confirm this. So. It’s possible to blackmail people or use the information obtained. But is the state acting legally or illegally? Or is it just that there is certain individuals in power who are not acting in the national interest, but of their own personal interest to get information they can use later? Now we’ve got to emit a clear message that these practises are unacceptable and. We have got to do more to ensure that the governments do more to stop these abuses of power because these are criminal acts. And so I think that we’ve got to we’ve we’ve got to do more to be able to establish whether or not we’re victims of spying or not. And because many people are victims of spying without knowing it.
Marcel Kolaja (Greens): Thank you. Well, first of all, I need to say that Mr. Zoido makes this debate a bit bizarre. Well, not a bit, but quite bizarre. First of all, I mean, we are not interested in Spanish internal politics. We are interested in what happened in Spain. We are looking for facts or looking for the explanation why the spyware was used. How it was used, if it was legal. On what legal basis, etc..
Second, there was recently a mission to Poland. Ten MEPs were sent on an official mission of the Committee to Poland and we had a chance to discuss with experts, with victims, with opposition politicians. And you, Mr. Zoido, were even personally present there, and I haven’t heard anything from you questioning the citizens lab. So I find it scandalous if anyone now questions the findings by Citizens Lab in Spain on mobile devices of the victims that we have now in the hearing, because that apparently then is only a political game to question facts, evidence that has been found. Now to my question. So multiple speakers have spoken about the legal basis and. When we were in Poland. Then we found out that even though there may have been court orders, really it became quite clear that the judges, even if the court orders were issued, did not really know, didn’t really it couldn’t really possibly understand what they are deciding on, because this is not a simple wiretapping for which normally court orders are issued. This is hacking into a phone and getting control over your device, over your data, getting access to your passwords, getting access perhaps to services that you have online and that you are signed up to on your phone access basically anywhere in your digital life. According to what you know. The findings that you have made. Is there actually a legal process in Spain that could have been followed in order to get really a justified court order where the judge would really know what they are? Yeah, I’m coming to a conclusion. I mean, like Mr. Zoido good. Like six or 7 minutes.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Mr. Zoido got 6 minutes because people were shouting through him for 2 minutes. So you are taking you’re taking more time than a rapporteur or any other speaker, so please conclude.
Marcel Kolaja (Greens): Well, as I said, Mr. Zoido got 6 minutes. I ask for some fairness. So.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): I don’t accept being accused of being unfair here. You got time. You could take more time than any other. You could just parliament. You conclude now or I’ll take away the floor.
Marcel Kolaja (Greens): Mr. Chair, I will finish my questions and. Yeah. So, so so the question is, according to you, to your findings, is there a legal procedure that could have been followed? And do we have any indications that it was followed? For instance, like in that legal procedure, if it even exists in Spain, you would have you would have to be informed about about something. You do have any indications if that happened? Thank you.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Thank you Mr. Kolaja. Mr. Kouloglou.
Stelios Kouloglou (Left): Well besides the, the 18 people we know that there were all followed after a kind of, of authorisation. Which organisation according to your information or knowledge was responsible for spying on you. Is there any kind of deep state that is follows you because it looks like we cannot see and you don’t have any concrete evidence that the Spanish government or the Secret Service or the government were spying on you.
And the second question is, after your experience, what kind of of a legit legislative action on the level of the parliament or the European Parliament, what kind of directive could could be made for only for a European level to establish a framework that will prevent forever spying not only on the deputies of the parliament, but also or the journalist, the common people.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Thank you, Mr. Cañas.
Jordi Cañas (Renew): Thank you, Chair. Colleagues. Just further information. You understand that we are on different ends of the political spectrum, but we agree that no state should be using illegal procedures to spy on its citizens. That is something that needs to be left very clear. I think that any day, even my own, should be spying. That needs to be made very clear. Even though, as I say, we’re on opposite ends of the political spectrum. But I think that we should try and stick to the topic of this committee and try and reach conclusions. Because if we have. Certain conclusions that haven’t been proven, then we won’t be able to reach the real conclusions because we don’t have all of the information.
First of all, I’m trying to answer the questions that were raised. First of all, if you were spied on, the Spanish government has recognised 18. Investigations. But they haven’t acknowledged that you are amongst the 18 and the current president of the generally tat is amongst those 18 peoples and that the list was leaked. So if an investigation had been carried out then your names would have come up. So I don’t understand why your names haven’t been leaked, but we do know that the president with a generator has been affected. And later on we can talk about the background. But this government has acknowledged that this software was used in legal proceedings. That is under the legal umbrella. It’s not your case. So the proof that you have or your allegations are based on a private report from Citizens Lab, which doesn’t actually establish who spied on you. It says that your devices were infected, but it’s not say how or why. But you are inferring. You’re insinuating that it was the Spanish government. This is an opinion. It’s not a fact. And I want this committee to be aware of that, because this committee exists in order to determine whether you were spied on and who spied on you. And we can’t reach conclusions on something that we don’t know. You don’t have that information.
In fact, the citizens lab report doesn’t establish that. And we have to make that clear. I think we do have to establish whether you really were spied on or not. The report from Citizens Lab has been questioned. There have been false positives and one of the authors of the report is actually being investigated by the Spanish state because they promoted an organisation which led to violence in the streets of Catalonia. So the author of the reports that you’re using to file a report about being spied on is actually being investigated for inciting violence in Catalonia. So it’s important to understand that background. It’s important to know whether you’ve been spied on and by who, but you cannot say with certainty that you have been and who was responsible.
And so in this committee, we have to conclude whether you were spied on and who did spied on you and those who are laughing maybe have proof that or evidence that they’re not showing us. But to end, I’d like to ask you whether you have submitted your phones to the judicial system, given that you are in legal proceedings right now. And when it comes to neutrality, the vice president here is offering conclusions to a committee that she presides. Well, I find that quite surprising. This is an issue of neutrality. Thank you.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Because we are running a little bit late and a little bit of self-discipline you’ll have heard for anybody speaking here, because we only complain about when all those people speak too long, but then we do all exactly the same. And this is no way to to conclude a meeting in time. So I apologise also to Mr. Puigdemont for having to wait. I propose we we’re going to cut into the time reserve for the coordinators meeting after this. And I hope we can do that efficiently. But I really ask colleagues all of you to be a bit more respectful to each other, because in the end what you’re doing is only taking away speaking time from your colleagues, which is disrespectful and not helpful. In the good order of this meeting, I will pass the floor for 5 minutes to each of you to respond. I know it’s not a lot, but I’d ask you to try and do it within that time. And then we go to Mr. Puigdemont and we will break into the time of the coordinators meeting and hope we can do everything before the votes. Thank you. Let’s do them in maybe reverse order and start with Mr. Comín.
Antoni Comín (Non-attached): I think I’ll have enough time. With 5 minutes, if you could reset the clock because it’s already started. I’m going to answer some of the questions that have been asked by Sophia and others. You’ve talked about the consequences of espionage on our activities. I can’t really answer that question because perhaps there has been action which has had an impact on my political activity, and I don’t know what the information obtained using Pegasus has been used or not. I don’t know how that’s been used and that’s one of the questions that I’m actually asking here today. Those who have spied on me should answer that question because it’s impossible for me to know. Whether. Things that have happened to me that have perhaps negatively impacted my activity are results of surveillance with Pegasus. I don’t have any proof of that. So that’s a question that I have been asking today.
I’m going to try and answer the questions in order. Yvonne Garcia Blanco. Asked a question. But the facts. That. Well, some of my colleagues have been with has been subject to legal cases and they have been charged by German judges. And I trust them more than others. They have assessed. The case and the judges of selected Holstein said the following. I know the ruling by heart. He said that the facts. I would ask that I not be interrupted. That’s the second time I’ve been interrupted and I would ask the chair please to call for order. There are MEPs who are interrupting me while I’m speaking and that’s the second time I’ve been interrupted today. So, Chair, I would ask that you call for order. Please call for order. An MEP is interrupting me because I deserve not to be interrupted while I’m speaking. And this has happened twice now.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): But because the microphones alone, I was not hearing the interruption. But please, colleagues, we have guests here. We need to treat them respectfully. 5 minutes to conclude their remarks. And it’s not up to you to interrupt them.
Antoni Comín (Non-attached): So the German judges said that not only was this anti-constitutional, but it couldn’t even be considered an attack on personal rights. So we trust more in the German judges or Swiss or Belgian judges than Spanish judges. That’s just to respond to Mr. Garcia Blanco. And I would also like to respond to Marcel Kolaja, Róża Thun also mentioned this. In. Our case as we’re not in the list of those 18 that received judicial authorisation from the Supreme Court. We don’t know whether we have that judicial authorisation or not, whether we’re covered by it. I said this previously. I think this committee should try and clarify that. If there has been judicial authorisation, which judge granted that? And what was the procedure involved? Because I haven’t been told my lawyers haven’t been asked to take part in a proceeding in proceedings. I don’t know whether that was judicial authorisation or not. And so these are important questions that need to be answered.
And finally, I’d like to answer Jordi Cañas‘ question. You you say that we need to ask whether it was a Spanish government response or not. If it wasn’t the National Intelligence Centre. And only governments have access to citizen lab services. Then which government has been spying on us? Which government is spying on pro-independence MEP? Could it have been the Moroccan government? So ask yourself, Mr. Cañas, is this really plausible? Is it possible that we’ve been spied on by a body of the Spanish government and we don’t know who. We don’t know if it was the Secret Services or not. And this is a question that we should ask Mr. Feude, the former minister of the interior, did he buy Pegasus services and didn’t tell us? I don’t know whether the interior minister knows about the government’s ability to survey others. Maybe he knows about the judicial authorisation. These are the questions that this committee should be asking. If the Spanish government has nothing to hide, then why didn’t they want an investigation committee? Why haven’t they answered the questions? Why don’t they want a mission to take place in Spain? Why are they fearful of what might happen? Why? Why don’t they agree to a mission or this committee visiting Spain on a mission? Thank you.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Turn this into a debate. We have guests here. They were asked questions. Sometimes they were provocative questions. They have the right to respond in the way they choose. And we will have plenty of time in our committee to debate amongst ourselves today. It’s an exchange of views with our guests who are members of the European Parliament. The questions are asked. They’re entitled their answers. I’m not going to turn this into a big debate in the room here today. So I’ll pass the floor to Mr. Solé.
Jordi Solé (Greens): Thank you. And thank you for the questions. I’m only going to ask answer those questions that were directly related to. The fact that we have been spied on and Mr. Zoido, we can get together and talk about the pro-independence movement in Catalonia, but I would prefer that our mobile phones weren’t in the room. Given the bad experiences I’ve had up until now. I prefer that there weren’t any devices in the room when we had that chat. You’ve asked very interesting questions. Some of those questions were quite technical and I think the best. Place to find answers to a lot of those questions that you’ve asked. Would be in Madrid or in Barcelona within the framework of a mission carried out by this committee, which I hope will take place soon. I honestly hope that you decide to undertake a mission in Spain, because otherwise I don’t know how the members of this committee will be able to explain how you’ve gone to Israel, Poland and Greece, but you haven’t been to Spain, where up until now. It’s where the highest number of cases has been identified.
Having said this. It’s very simple from my point of view. I just want to know. Why I’ve been spied on. I want to know where my information has ended up. These are the questions I have asked from the very beginning. I also want justice. I want justice and transparency. Because I want to know what’s happened and justice. Because I want to understand who’s responsible for this. Because I. Don’t want to believe. I find it difficult to believe, in fact, that this. Has happened. In accordance with a legal procedure. I find it difficult to believe that that really has been the case. So transparency and justice are key for me. And. I call on the authorities of the Spanish government and the judge who has accepted my case and the case of the lawyer and drove under Snyder and of the public prosecutor. Last week I testified before the judge and the public prosecutor and. We also call on the European Parliament to help us as MEPs to find this transparency and justice that we are looking for. Honestly.
It feels wrong to me that instead of focussing on. Political espionage and how wrong it is in the European Union. Some of you have decided to focus on discrediting Citizen Lab, for example. It’s about. Distracting people from the real issues. These are cases that, if they are confirmed, would involve a breach of democratic rights and infringement of the right to pluralism. The right to privacy. These are major concerns. And some of you, rather than focussing on that, have decided to focus on the reliability of a report of a very prestigious organisation. When it comes to cybersecurity issues. I don’t think we need to distract attention from the main issues. We need to focus on democracy, on fundamental rights. And we need to clearly define. Those legitimate cases.
But I’m convinced that. None of the cases that I’ve talked about are legitimate. There is nothing that can justify the fact that we have been spied on. And finally. I will make my device available to the judicial system with certain guarantees because there is information on there. And I want guarantees. But I will make it available to them. I don’t know whether after 2020 there were more cases. I’m not aware of them. Because the cases I’m aware of are limited to June 2020. But I don’t think I was specifically the target of espionage. It probably wasn’t us. It was probably the people that we were talking to. During the pandemic, we weren’t travelling. We had a lot of online meetings, there were a lot of phone calls as well. And I think the target. Well, all of you have said. What we have in common is that you were in touch with people in exile. And I think they were probably the real target. Thank you.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Yeah.
Diana Riba i Giner (Greens): Yes. Thank you very much. And thank you for the questions. I think it’s going to be impossible to answer all of them, even though we have 5 minutes each. In any case, I think we can go over all of them and maybe send you the answers later on if we’re unable to answer here. When it comes to the 18 specific cases, I know there were quite a few questions about that. We don’t know. We don’t have information about those who are amongst the 18. We are asking about it, but there’s no committee of enquiry about Pegasus in Spain. Others have asked whether the Government, the National Security Centre, has been in touch with us, but they haven’t actually. There’s been no communication.
But in the case of espionage, often we know why and what the aim was. But in fact, there is a law that states that those who’ve been spied on have to be informed. But we haven’t received any information up until now. We talked about Spain, the rule of law, fundamental rights. And we have we have reflected about this. Last week, the commissioner was in Spain and reminded the government that 61% of the sentences of the court of the human rights are being attacked by the Spanish state. So we are being spied on by the Spanish state and we’re having difficulties having access to legal proceedings.
And others have asked the same questions that occur often in our hearings. And how about how we can prove all of this? And what bodies, what oversight bodies? Or what organisations are available and reliable? And what evidence can be admitted by a judge? These are questions that we have to discuss here in this committee and find answers. We have to create mechanisms so that citizens are able to obtain official documents stating that they have been spied on and that they could they can seek justice. We don’t have that right now. We can’t really into discussions in this democratic space about whether the victims deserved it or whether the information is leaked depending on and whose interests it is. But I, as my colleagues have said, believe in transparency. Democrat they have they have to be Democratic and transparent spaces. And we mustn’t just say that because they’re pro-independence activists. They deserved it. I think as victims taking part in this committee, we can also take part in these hearings and make requests and provide information so that conclusions can be drawn. I don’t think neutrality should be an issue here.
We also need a protocol within the European Parliament for this. I think that would be a very good initiative so that when we identify new cases because in August we saw a case in Greece, but there might be further cases affecting MEPs and we have to be able to act within the European Parliament to deal with this. The European Parliament could perhaps ask the Commission to investigate these alleged cases of espionage. I understand that the Commission has sent letters to Member States where there have been enquiries and all Member States have responded apart from Spain, in fact. So there has to be a protocol. That doesn’t depend on where the MEP is from. There needs to be an internal procedure that is triggered. If the member state does not respond, we could perhaps request that the procedure for proceedings be initiated. If they. If the Member State does not respond, we need a series of mechanisms here in the European Parliament. If an MEP is investigated before immunity is lifted and that’s something that needs to be on the table, we need to activate a protocol in this case of espionage because that becoming more and more frequent, this is just the tip of the iceberg. So a protocol would be interesting for us.
And in the latter there isn’t a Pegasus committee of enquiry in Spain. And this leads us to believe that we need to investigate this in more detail. Catalan gate comes up a lot in our meetings and we can agree or disagree politically with them. But this is a case which is on the table in this committee, so let’s not shy away from a mission in Spain. I also think that it’s very politically difficult to be part of groups where you might be the victim of espionage and in other cases you might be the one spying. It’s very difficult to form part of political groups when you’re facing that dilemma, but we shouldn’t use that in this committee. Those who are victims are victims and those who have been spied on have been spied on. And we shouldn’t put any kind of pressure on the committee like we’re doing now. Thank you.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Thank you. Thank you very much. And, of course, your your offer, if you have any additional comments to make in writing, of course, we will share them with with all the members of the committee. Thank you very much for being with us. It was very helpful. And I’m sorry, I would I would be more elaborate in my thanks, but we need to move to the next minute inviting Mr. Puigdemont to take his place here on the podium. The full amount of time for you available as well? No. You’ll come here. Come here. Please give. It’s also for you, Mr. which means you have 7 minutes for your presentation to the committee and then we’ll have one round of, of collecting questions and answers. And you got the opportunity to answer. You have the floor.
Carles Puigdemont (Non-attached): Thank you. Thank you very much for inviting me. I’m going to be very brief. I’m going I’m don’t think I’m going to use all of the time I might repeat some points and I ask I apologise for that. According to the report from citizenship of the 65 people who have been confirmed as victims of. Pegasus Spyware 11. Belong to my direct contacts. Amongst them is my wife. She was attacked several times and was spied on at least twice. Also, this includes two of my lawyers who were spied on during between three months and 15 months. This also includes people who just occasionally work with me on administrative tasks. There’s one MP from Catalonia who was the head of staff while I was in the Catalan government. Also the president of the parliamentary group of my party and the Catalan parliament is part of the list. The ex-mayor of the. Catalan council is also in the list.
So these are people with whom I have a very close political relationship. It’s clear that we’re dealing with illegal, illegitimate intrusion, which cannot be justified in any way, shape or form. My two lawyers were attacked while we were preparing our defence. We were trying to defend our immunity in the Parliament and before the hearings that we were due to take part in. That was dealing with the lifting of the immunity. My lawyers were actually spied on and there was fight on. We went when we were preparing our defence in the European Court of Justice for the same case. So we’re dealing with serious interference and intrusion or an a breach of a fundamental right in Europe, because not only is this a breach of. My defence, but also the client lawyer confidentiality principle.
And I’d also like to highlight some an anomaly that I’ve identified in Spain. The judge that authorised that one of my lawyers be spied on is the same judge, the same person who had to. Just decide on the appeals that were presented in the Supreme Court. So that is the same judge that had to take a decision on the appeals. That we submitted to the Supreme Court, and she also authorised the surveillance. That is unacceptable. And despite. Our repeated requests. That judge has had to withdraw without the UN cancelling or annulling the previous decision. So this is just to give you an indication of how judicial authorisation is being used.
It’s clear that this espionage that I’m describing in which people like my wife, my political collaborators are involved, is about collecting, gathering information just in case one day that information might be politically useful or relevant. It’s not related to any particular criminal case. The last three presidents of the Government of Catalonia have been directly spied on or indirectly. In the same way that the previous president of the Catalan parliament was spied on. So this is abnormal and unacceptable. In my team. My lawyers were spied on when we were preparing Candidatures for the European elections and when we met up to take important political decisions which were related to Spanish policy or the Catalan government, according to a report in The New Yorker. And my colleagues also mentioned this.
I’m referring to it referred to the big spyware attack that we are aware of to date. Pegasus attacks cannot be so far attributed to anyone specific. And that’s what makes people panic, because if we had the instruments to be able to monitor and trace the use of this in order to understand how it’s being used, then I think we would all have more peace of mind. But the fact that you’re asking us who is spying on us and we’re saying, no, this obviously forced us into a panic because we’re completely unprotected, we’re defenceless, and no one is able to respond to this question. It’s true that the Spanish authorities. Have confirmed that between 15 and 25. Cases or people have been spied on and there was judicial authorisation granted. But the Spanish government denies ever using Pegasus. We only have full knowledge of all the authorised use of spyware was using another system Sitel which Mr. Zoido is very familiar with, and this is a system which is often used by the police and the Spanish legal system, and that does offer traceability guarantees that Pegasus can’t offer.
So. If spying is undertaken in accordance with the law, there is an authorised and secure. Programme called Sita, which does leave a trace, but no one knows who was responsible for authorising the use of Pegasus. And a large number of people were spied on. Apparently, no one wants to take responsibility for that. And this has affected our lives, our freedom and political life. We have had to change the way we express ourselves. We have to protect ourselves differently. We feel that our rights and our privacy has been violated and people are scared.
I just wanted to state that the devices that have tested positive for spyware. Have the iOS operating system, but there are many, many more attacks on the Android system, on devices with Android system and. That can’t be confirmed as easily as with the Apple operating system. Two of my previous devices are currently being analysed by Citizen Lab, and I’d like to end on this point. Just for your information. On the 29th of February of 2020. Go. Google Maps on my phone has located me in Barcelona. And if I had been in Barcelona on the 29th of December, then I would be in prison right now. I wouldn’t be here.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): We’ll start a round of questions and answers. I’ll pass the floor to Sophie in ’t Veld and anybody else who wants to participate. Please indicate by raising your nametag. Sophie?
Sophie in ’t Veld (Renew): Uh, yes. Thank you. Uh, Chair, I’ll try and be very brief. I’m still not quite clear, I have to say. In what way? You have been targeted because have you been targeted directly or only you have been targeted directly? Okay. No, no, not at all. Okay. Well, maybe you can clarify that. Then you mentioned that the judge that had to take a decision in in the case concerning you had had access to your conversations with your lawyers. But what wasn’t clear to me is how how the judge got access. Um. And then maybe the last the last incident that you mentioned that your your phone was reportedly, uh, in Barcelona, but apparently your phone travels alone. Can you, can you explain that? What’s the explanation for such a for such an incident?
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Thank you very much for the EPP. No S&D. Then I have pass the floor to Róża Thun.
Róża Thun und Hohenstein (Renew): Thank you. Thank you, Chair. Um. Why? Because you said that there were the names of judges. No names of judges who issued the warrant to bug the persons. What is it? So that in some cases, you know that there was a warrant warrant issued and you even know the name of the judge and in some other cases, not. And the other. Why do you think that you are not spied directly, but that you were spied, so to say, around shots when shots went around the 10th. But not not in the centre. And the last thing is we haven’t spoken about it before, but maybe there are some who have the opinion about it. When we were in Poland, a prosecutor was a victim. Mrs. Rusk told us that there cannot be a legal agreement of a judge to I mean, permission to to spy upon someone with Pegasus, because such a device in itself, such a profound in violation, is prohibited in Poland by law so that it couldn’t be a legal permission. Do you know and to think about this as far as Spain is concerned.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Thank you, Saskia Bricmont.
Saskia Bricmont (Greens): Thank you very much, Mr. Puigdemont. Now I and I would like to share my solidarity, especially with those close to you who have been spied on. It shows how difficult it is to get justice for victims. MEPs have parliamentary immunity and this has been violated. And if they have access to certain means, what about ordinary citizens who are not public figures? I’d like to ask you, like other speakers have, what do you expect from our institution here?
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Thank you, Mr. Lebreton.
Gilles Lebreton (Identity and Democracy): Good morning, Mr. Puigdemont. Like my other colleagues, I don’t fully understand what has happened to you. You have been spied on, you say, but not in a direct way, but in an indirect way. Now I understand what direct spying is, but I’m not quite sure what indirect spying is. So I’d be very grateful if you could explain what that means. Thank you.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Thank you. Cornelia Ernst.
Cornelia Ernst (Left): Thank you very much. I would also like to know about indirect spying. So those people in your entourage. I’d also like to know whether they have been affected. That’s the first point. Secondly, in Germany in 2018, you you came to Germany, you were arrested in Strasbourg, Hohenstein, as you entered Germany from Denmark. That was commander of the intelligence services in Spain who observed you. And is it known what kind of tools were used for that? And could it be that the German police was involved? As the software was used to spy on you.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Thank you, Mr. Cañas.
Jordi Cañas (Renew): Thank you, sir. If we stick to this slightly surrealists reason why the speaker is here. You. You said that your contacts were spied on. And you said also two of your collaborators were part of that group of 18 that have been recognised or acknowledged by the Spanish state and there was judicial authorisation for their surveillance. So you have the head of your staff who you met with three times or four times in Moscow and in other places, and you requested political assistance, financial assistance. It seems that you also had a meeting in Geneva with the Russian secret services and with other intelligence agents. Then you had a meeting in Barcelona with other members of Vladimir Putin’s entourage. This has been published and proven, and I can provide you with the report on this. And you were offered 10,000 soldiers for Catalan independence, which you rejected. And so there were meetings which catered to the European Intelligence Service that he was requesting help in order to make Catalonia independent. So that was investigated in 2019. After those meetings in Moscow. There were. Meetings in Barcelona and you organised mass protests in order to overturn the Government and unleashed violence in Barcelona. This is just to give some background information.
The other collaborators that are in that list are your lawyer, Mr. Borgia, who, according to what’s been published, had a meeting with Bassily Cristoforo, one of the main heads of the mafia, one of the mob bosses, in order to open up a financing channel. These two collaborate as well. We can go back to the debate we had last time they come from a report. I think it’s very clear what I’m asking here, and I’ve only been speaking for 2 minutes and 20. I’m recognising here that the collaborators out of those collaborators of Mr. Whitman, two of them, have been investigated for being in contact with Russia and Vladimir Putin in order to achieve independence for Catalonia. And one of your lawyers had meetings with the Russian mafia with that same objective in mind. So I’m not making this up. What is. So, Mr. Puigdemont, is it true that those meetings with your collaborators. Is it true that you met in the generally told with one of Putin’s emissaries?
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): No, Mr. Cañas, I have asked you five times now to conclude your questions and you haven’t done so. So please. Thank you very much. Then there was one quick follow up question by the rapporteur, Ms.. Sophie in ’t Veld, very brief.
Sophie in ’t Veld (Renew): Very brief, because if it’s if it is so that you have been targeted directly and you have been saying in Belgium, Germany, Scotland, I believe. Have you reported that to the authorities in Belgium, Germany or whatever?
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): Thank you very much. Mr. Puigdemont, you also have 5 minutes, too, to answer. Thank you.
Carles Puigdemont (Non-attached): Thank you, Chair. First of all, direct or indirect surveillance or espionage. The cases that I’ve mentioned. Our cases that have been confirmed by Citizen Lab. And it was at a time when I had direct contact with these people. We were having meetings and we were working together quite closely. So it’s clear that if they’re spying on my wife, perhaps it’s because they haven’t been able to infect my device or they’ve tried to. Spy on me directly through my wife. I cannot say here today that I have been a victim of Pegasus spyware. I can only say that my phones are being analysed by Citizen Lab and that I would very willingly provide you with the results of the Citizen Lab study. I can tell you for now that they have strong suspicions that the devices were infected. But while I’ve been in exile, I have also taken precautions. And none of my devices or phone numbers are Spanish or have been bought in Spain. And so that might have made it difficult for anyone to spy on me. But I will very willingly provide you with the citizenship report so that you can see. How the spying took place. And those conversations that have been recorded, I’m sure will have my part of the conversation. If I meet with my lawyer or with my wife or with others, the entire conversation will be recorded. This is what I mean by espionage.
Mr. Lebreton, just to clarify why I’m here today. I’d also like to clarify that there is a judge in Spain that has to authorise wire tapping, phone tapping. According to Spanish legislation, there is one judge. The ombudsman states that this should be reviewed because it doesn’t seem right that one judge should have all of that power and authority. But I have to say that that judge. Actually has to study and did study are appeals in the Supreme Court. On topics that we’re being spied on. So if the judge has done his job properly, if he’s checked that the subject of surveillance. Is what he authorised. Then he can know that by reading the transcripts of who’s been spied on. I assume democracy works that way. And so that judge who has access to this content is the one who actually ruled on our cases. So you can understand how that might be contradictory or might be an infringement of certain guarantees. We talked about reparation for the victims, and I don’t think this committee should limit itself to. MEPs and victims are MEPs because people are looking to this. Committee for. Greater certainty for their own lives. And I think Member States are failing in this sense because we’re not supporting those who feel like they have been victims and that their privacy has been violated.
Mr. Cannon said that this was a surrealist hearing. I’m not going to make a comment on that, but I will say that perhaps you should broaden your information and it shouldn’t be ever you shouldn’t focus so much on fake news. We should talk more about fake news and how it comes from the police. The police? Patriotic police might write up a report with detailing these atrocities, but they are also the same police that talk about Swiss bank accounts. And that was also a lie. It’s the same patriotic police that put a text on my collaborators phone in order to show that they were in touch with the Russian authorities. But that text came from a book that was being translated from Russian into Catalan, which is written by. Those who were in the series, the Americans, which I think was broadcast by Netflix or HBO, and my colleague translated a lot of their text related to that.
But I’d like to say, did you know that there’s Spanish courts and the courts in Barcelona have closed the investigation of this Russian scandal that you have mentioned? There are no there is no evidence of this. And after all of this surveillance, you insist on putting out fake news, this intelligence that you’re alluding to. Has. Been denied. Its existence has been denied in the Parliament. You can come up with all the fake news you want. But here I have the. The ruling of the judge of Barcelona talking about this. So after all of this noise that you’ve tried to generate, your lawyers has had to have and look, judges have had to conclude that this narrative cannot be imposed. We have to. Talk about this. But in the committee that deals with fake news that threatens democracy because this is a fabrication with the aim of launching a smear campaign against a democratic movement. And if you want to know more about the links between Russia and other political groups, then maybe you should look closer to home.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): You know, you can take you can take the floor when it’s given to you. I’ve already informed you we are not having a debate on this. We have had. And we had. No, no, no, no. Listen to me. Listen to me. Can you please can you please be silent and listen to me? I have indicated already at the beginning we are we are having presentations from our guests. You can ask your questions. You can be as provocative as you want in those questions. And then we have the guests to answer the questions. And that’s the end of our exchange. We are not going to debate this here any further if we’ll have plenty of opportunities in our committee to debate amongst ourselves about the content of the hearings that we’ve had. But we’re not going to have a debate between members of the parliament right here, right now, and that’s the end of it. Mr. Cañas, thank you very much.
Jeroen Lenaers (Chair): I am concluding this. I no, I’m sorry. I am here to get the floor on this. I am concluding this meeting. And I want to say and this is more of a request and a desire from my part. We are an enquiry committee of the European Parliament and I would really appreciate and it goes for all colleagues if we could leave the national politics out of this and focus on the overarching European interest that we all share and that we should work towards. So please thank you colleagues for that. I would ask you to take note of the fact that on the Thursday, 20th of October, our next meeting, and I would really ask coordinators to stay behind for a little while longer. We won’t have a full coordinator’s meeting, but just do it to make some formal decisions. Thank you very much.