Opposition leader slams ruling party over Pegasus spyware

Commenting on the ruling party's dismissal of the issue, Tusk said that government officials are aware of criminal responsibility. Tomasz Gzell/PAP

Donald Tusk, leader of Poland's main opposition grouping, has lashed out at the government for its alleged use of the Pegasus software to spy on government opponents.

The opposition have accused the ruling party, the conservative Law and Justice (PiS), of purchasing Pegasus from the Israeli firm NSO to spy on it and other government opponents, citing reports from Citizen Lab, a specialised unit at the University of Toronto, phone maker Apple and Amnesty International.

"The things around Pegasus, or generally the use of such tools by the government... are repression of the opposition and a violation of democracy," Donald Tusk, leader of the centrist Civic Coalition (KO), told TOK FM radio on Thursday.

PiS has downplayed the accusations, saying that any use of surveillance must be approved by the prosecutor general and a court, and that all potential instances of wiretapping were in full compliance with the law.

Commenting on the ruling party's dismissal of the issue, Tusk said that government officials are aware of criminal responsibility.

"And this is why Prime Minister (Mateusz) Morawiecki has resorted to such silly, failed and desperate attempts to minimise this problem because he is aware that he's co-responsible for the situation as the head of the Polish government," Tusk said.

The opposition leader also warned that "those who are responsible for the use of such tools will be held criminally responsible."

The opposition has tried to gather forces and overcome party differences in the lower house of parliament to set up an investigative commission to scrutinise the use of surveillance tools by the government but the initiative has been strongly opposed by PiS, which claims the body would be used for political purposes.

Still, the opposition may lack a single MP to get the motion through parliament, but Tusk said someone from the ruling party may decide to support the move.

"We know that there are some PiS MPs who are upset by Pegasus as they have been wiretapped too," Tusk said. "So anything is possible."

He also went on to say that "about a hundred PiS MPs are afraid they have been wiretapped."

In late January, Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski, an MP with PiS and a former agriculture minister who has fallen from grace with the party leadership, said that he would vote for the commission if he does not "receive an explanation about whether he was wiretapped or not."

A motion to set up the commission was filed with the lower house speaker last week.

According to Citizen Lab reports, Pegasus was used to hack the mobile phones of some members of the opposition, including Senator Krzysztof Brejza, who at the time of the attack was head of a parliamentary campaign for Civic Coalition. Other Pegasus victims included a lawyer representing Donald Tusk, a prosecutor who launched an investigation that was unfavourable for the government and the leader of a farmers' movement criticising the government's rural policies.

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