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The Catalan leader has accused the Spanish government of spying on its citizens after a human rights group said his phone and dozens of phones belonging to Catalan independence fighters were infected with spyware, Reuters reports.

Digital rights group Citizen Lab has found that more than 60 people associated with the Catalan movement, including several members of the European Parliament, as well as other politicians, lawyers and activists, have been victims of Pegasus spyware created by the Israeli NSO Group.

“It’s an unjustifiable disgrace,” Catalan leader Pere Aragones tweeted. “An extremely serious attack on fundamental rights and democracy.”Nearly all infections occurred between 2017 and 2020, following Catalonia's failed bid for independence, which plunged Spain into its worst political crisis in years, according to Citizen Lab.

Citizen Lab said it could not definitively attribute the espionage operations to a specific organization, but noted that strong circumstantial evidence suggests an association with the Spanish authorities.

Citizen Lab began its investigation in 2020 after researchers working with WhatsApp alerted several Catalan lawmakers, including Parliament Speaker Roger Torrent, to have their phones hacked.

At the time, Interior Minister Fernando Marlaska denied any involvement of the Spanish government or its intelligence agencies.

The El Pais newspaper subsequently reported that the Spanish intelligence agency CNI did have access to the software.

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