Catalan leader says to freeze parliamentary support for Spanish PM over spying

BARCELONA, April 21 (Reuters) – Catalonia’s left-wing Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya party will stop backing the Spanish government in parliament unless Madrid take steps to restore confidence after reports it spied on pro-independence figures, a said the head of the region.

This could cause problems for Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, as his left-wing coalition government lacks a parliamentary majority and the party of Catalonia’s head of government, Pere Aragones, was instrumental in passing the legislation.

Canadian group Citizen Lab said earlier this week that between 2017 and 2020, more than 60 people linked to the Catalan separatist movement, including Aragones and his three predecessors, had been targeted by ‘Pegasus’ spyware made by the Israeli group. NSO. Read more

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Aragones told Reuters on Wednesday that trust between Esquerra and Spain’s ruling socialists was now “almost zero” as he suspected the Spanish spy agency was behind the alleged surveillance, a move that likely required government approval.

“Until this confidence is restored, it will not be possible to continue as we were a few weeks ago, supporting the Spanish government in terms of stability in parliament,” he said in an interview. inside the 15th century government palace in Barcelona.

He said the loss of confidence would also end a nascent political dialogue after Catalonia’s failed independence bid in 2017 sparked Spain’s biggest political crisis in decades.

The Spanish government on Tuesday denied illegally spying on Catalan pro-independence leaders, but did not say whether it had undertaken court-approved electronic surveillance.

Aragones said the allegations were the largest known case of mass surveillance by a democratic state in recent years, as he argued that software such as Pegasus should only be used in investigations targeting terrorism or organized crime. .

He called for a ‘clear, strong and transparent’ response from Madrid, including an internal and external investigation.

Aragones, who Citizen Lab says was spied on as deputy regional chief before taking office in 2021, said he had no certainty his phone was not currently tapped.

“We cannot act as if nothing has happened (…) today it is the separatists (wiretapped) but tomorrow it will be other sectors that are not part of the Spanish establishment”, did he declare.

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Reporting by Joan Faus, editing by Andrei Khalip and Alex Richardson

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