French president among 14 heads of states on Pegasus list

Paris: French President Emmanuel Macron leads a list of 14 current or former heads of state who may have been targeted for hacking by clients of the notorious Israeli spyware firm NSO Group, Amnesty International has said.

“The unprecedented revelation … should send a chill down the spine of world leaders,” Amnesty’s secretary-general, Agnes Callamard, said in a statement.

Among potential targets found on a list of 50,000 phone numbers leaked to Amnesty and the Paris-based journalism, nonprofit Forbidden Stories include Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and Barham Salih of Iraq. Three current prime ministers and the king of Morocco, Mohammed VI, are also on the list, The Washington Post reported.

According to The Wire, Macron’s name appeared in the list as he embarked on a trip to Africa in 2019 with stops in Djibouti and Ethiopia.

Citing sources, French publication Le Monde reported that one of Macron’s phone numbers, which has been regularly used since 2017 is on the leaked database accessed by the Pegasus Project.

In a statement to Le Monde, Macron’s office stated, “If the facts are true, they are clearly very serious. All light will be shed on these media revelations.”

It added that “some French victims have already announced they would file complaints and legal investigations will, therefore, be launched”.

According to The Wire, the phone numbers of Morocco’s King and PM were discovered in a small subset of phone numbers, which was allegedly selected by Moroccan security forces.

President Ramaphosa’s number was found in a batch of numbers listed in 2019, a Guardian report said.

According to the report, NSO Group, which owns the Pegasus products, counts 36 governments around the world as its customers. The report found traces of the spyware on 37 phones on the leaked list.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

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