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Spain Court Dismisses Morocco Case Against Journalist

Spain Court Dismisses Morocco Case Against Journalist

Friday, 17 March, 2023 - 06:30
A general view during a partial lockdown amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Madrid, Spain, October 3, 2020. REUTERS/Javier Barbancho

A Madrid court has dismissed a case brought by Morocco against a Spanish journalist who had accused Rabat of bugging his phone with Pegasus spyware.

The ruling, seen by AFP on Thursday, acquitted 68-year-old Ignacio Cembrero, dismissing Rabat's claim he had engaged in "an act of bragging" about being the victim of phone bugging.

A spokesperson for the law firm representing Rabat told AFP Morocco would appeal the ruling.

The lawsuit had its roots in an explosive 2021 investigation by Forbidden Stories, a consortium of 17 Western media outlets, which found that more than 50,000 people -- including activists, journalists, executives and politicians -- might have been spied on using software developed by Israeli firm NSO.

Since then, Cembrero has repeatedly stated, and even told the European Parliament, that Morocco was behind the bugging, while admitting he had no formal proof.

But Rabat has denied that it had bought the software.

In her ruling, dated March 10, judge Sonia Lence Munoz said, "The various statements by the defendant... were in response to the publication of a journalistic investigation by an international group -- Forbidden Stories -- about people who were spied on with Pegasus software."

Such remarks were "justified by the gravity of the facts which led not only to a criminal investigation.”

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