France opens research on spy software usage by Morocco

French prosecutors have opened a judicial investigation into the allegations made by Moroccan intelligence agencies of using Pegasus spy software. Morocco would have bugged French journalists, France24 reports.

Ten different charges are investigated, including whether there was an infringement of privacy, fraudulent access to personal electronic devices and criminal links.

Journalists from several French media would have been bugged. Moroccan journalists would have also been in the sights of intelligence agencies, including Omar Radi. He was sentenced to six years in prison in Casablanca and a fine of 200,000 dirham, nearly 19,000 euros. He himself was found guilty of espionage and rape in a political process, critics said.

Morocco denies the use of the software. The North African country says it never bought software to eavesdrop communication equipment.

Espionage more extensive than thought

Joint research by The Washington Post, The Guardian, Le Monde and other media shows that spying worldwide with the Pegasus software was much more extensive than previously thought. The software, developed by the Israeli company NSO Group, has been eavesdropped 180 journalists and activists worldwide by different countries and governments.

The documents with phone numbers of 50,000 victims of hacks with the software were provided by Amnesty International and the French medium Forbidden Stories.

Although the Israeli company says to sell only to authorized governments, the customer base also consists of countries where press freedom and human rights are under pressure. Morocco, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, among others, would have used the spy software.