France launch probe into Pegasus spyware allegations

French prosecutors have opened an investigation into allegations that Moroccan intelligence services spied on several French journalists using the Pegasus software at the heart of a global scandal.

The probe announced on Tuesday will examine 10 different charges, including whether there was a breach of personal privacy, fraudulent access to personal electronic devices and criminal association.

It was launched after an investigation published on Sunday by 17 media organisations said the Pegasus spyware made and licensed by the Israeli company, NSO, had been used in attempted and successful hacks of 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, government officials and human rights activists.

French investigative news website Mediapart filed a legal complaint on Monday in the wake of the spying claims.

The organisation said in a series of tweets that Morocco’s secret services had used Pegasus to infiltrate the mobile phones of its founder Edwy Plenel and one of its journalists.

“The only way to get to the bottom of this is for judicial authorities to carry out an independent investigation on widespread spying organised in France by Morocco,” Mediapart said in one of its tweets.

Meanwhile the Moroccan government called the investigation report “unfounded and false allegations”.

The country’s government said it had “never acquired computer software to infiltrate communication devices”.

But other journalists working for French media companies were also allegedly targeted by Moroccan security services, including employees of national newspaper Le Monde and the AFP news agency.

READ: Authoritative governments use Israeli software to spy on activists, politicians and journalists