Opposition-linked Polish mayor targeted by Pegasus spyware: Report

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An opposition-linked Polish mayor had his phone hacked using Pegasus spyware, Gazeta Wyborcza daily reported on Friday, amid allegations that the country’s special services have used the technology against government opponents.

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Reports in 2021 by the Associated Press that the software, developed by Israel-based NSO Group was used to hack the phones of government critics, including a senator for the largest opposition party, have drawn accusations that security services are eroding democratic norms.

Gazeta Wyborcza, a liberal daily which is highly critical of ruling nationalists Law and Justice (PiS), reported that the phone of Jacek Karnowski, mayor of the Baltic seaside resort of Sopot, was hacked in 2018-2019, when he was working on the opposition’s campaign for elections to the upper house of parliament, the Senate.

It said that his number appeared on a list that it had access to as part of the investigative journalism initiative the Pegasus Project.

“We will not allow the PiS machine to further destroy democracy, lead Poland to the East and [sovietize] our country,” Karnowski said in a statement sent to Reuters. “The politicians who inspired and commissioned these activities belong in prison.”

A Polish government spokesman and a spokesman for the Polish security services could not immediately be reached for comment.

Senior figures in the PiS government have previously confirmed that it bought the sophisticated spyware, but denied that it had been used against political opponents.

Israel has come under global pressure over allegations that Pegasus has been abused by some foreign client governments to spy on human rights activists, journalists, and politicians.

NSO has said it cannot confirm or deny any existing or potential customers for Pegasus. It said it does not operate the system once sold to its governmental customers nor is it involved in any way in the system’s operation.

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