Pegasus: Morocco attacks Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International in defamation in Paris

PEGASUS – Morocco, accused of using the spying software Pegasus, has decided to defame Amnesty and Forbidden Stories before the Paris Correctional Court, announced Thursday, July 22, its lawyer in a statement sent to AFP.

“The Kingdom of Morocco and its ambassador in France, Chakib Benmoussa, have mandated Me Olivier Baratelli to issue, today, two direct quotes in defamation” against these two associations that have been the source of the revelations since Sunday about the clients of this software.

A first procedural hearing is scheduled for 8 October before the press law chamber, but the trial is not expected to take place for about two years.

“The Moroccan State intends to immediately bring the matter before the French courts as it wishes to shed full light on the false allegations made by these two organizations, which advance evidence without the slightest concrete and proven evidence,” accuses Mr. Baratelli.

“The Moroccan State considers that it is facing a new list case and that the past has largely shown that it is easy to draw false conclusions from such practices,” adds the lawyer, deploring a “a media trial of intent, unfounded and visibly created in order to destabilize the deep diplomatic relationship between Morocco and France”.

The Alaouite dynasty “intends not to allow the many lies and fake news propagated in recent days to go unpunished”.

As of Monday, the Moroccan government had defended itself by denying having acquired “computer software to infiltrate communication devices”.

A list of 50.000 phone numbers

Rabat then threatened on Wednesday to “opt for a legal approach, in Morocco and internationally against any party taking over these spurious allegations”.

Meanwhile, the Moroccan General Prosecutor’s Office announced on Wednesday “the opening of a judicial investigation into these false allegations and accusations”.

Introduced into a smartphone, this software -designed by the Israeli company NSO- can retrieve messages, photos, contacts, and remotely activate the microphones.

Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International have obtained a list of 50,000 phone numbers, selected by NSO clients since 2016 for potential surveillance, and shared it with a consortium of 17 media that revealed its existence on Sunday.

The list of potential targets includes the numbers of at least 180 journalists, 600 politicians, 85 human rights activists and 65 business leaders, according to the consortium’s analysis – which has located many in Morocco, in Saudi Arabia or in Mexico.

On Tuesday, Le Monde and Radio France, members of the consortium, revealed that a telephone line belonging to the French president was one of the “numbers selected by a Moroccan state security service (…) for potential piracy”.

Former Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, 14 members of the government including Jean-Yves Le Drian and Gérald Darmanin, as well as former ministers and political leaders are also on this list according to the media.

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