Morocco says it will investigate 'unfounded allegations' on spyware

EU leaders summit in Brussels
France's President Emmanuel Macron talks on the phone during the first face-to-face EU summit since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brussels, Belgium July 20, 2020. John Thys/Pool via REUTERS

TUNIS, July 21 (Reuters) - Morocco's General Prosecutor said it will open an investigation into what it called "unfounded allegations" that the country had used Israeli spyware for surveillance, state media reported on Wednesday.

Rabat has denied buying or using the Pegasus spyware licensed by Israel-based NSO group after Amnesty International and a group of 17 international media organisations reported that it had targeted thousands of phone numbers. read more

In a statement carried by MAP news agency, the prosecutor said the reports included "serious accusations and allegations" in "cases undermining the higher interests of the kingdom".

French newspaper Le Monde reported on Tuesday that President Emmanuel Macron's phone had been targeted using Pegasus on behalf of Morocco, potentially damaging Rabat's relations with a major European ally after recent rows with Spain and Germany.

The journalism nonprofit Forbidden Stories said Morocco's King Mohammed VI and other members of the royal family were also targeted by a Moroccan client of NSO.

Earlier on Wednesday, Morocco's government accused media and rights groups that have reported on Pegasus of "hateful attacks" aimed at putting Rabat "under their control" and demanded they provide material evidence for the allegations.

NSO issued a statement on Sunday rejecting the reporting by the media partners, saying it was "full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories". Its product is intended only for use by government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to fight terrorism and crime, it said.

Reporting by Angus McDowall; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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