Opposition senator says his phone was hacked during election campaign

Radek Pietruszka/PAP

Senator Krzysztof Brejza has told a parliamentary body probing a spyware case that his phone had been digitally broken into multiple times when he was running the election campaign of the largest opposition bloc, Civic Platform.

On Monday, a special commission appointed at the Polish Senate to investigate the alleged use of Israeli-made Pegasus spyware for surveillance of opposition figures in Poland, started witness hearing.

One of the first witnesses in the case was John Scott-Railton, senior researcher at the Citizen Lab Research Laboratory, a specialist IT department at the University of Toronto, which confirmed in late December that the Pegasus software had been used to hack the mobile phones of some members of Poland's opposition.

Scott-Railton said on Monday that Citizen Lab had evidence Brejza's phone had been hacked 33 times between April 26 and October 23, 2019.

On Wednesday, Brejza told the Senate commission that the period when he was under surveillance "coincides 100 percent with the election calendar" and that "the attacks stopped a few days after the 2019 elections" he said.

"The case begins at the end of April (2019 - PAP), when the campaign for the European Parliament was already underway, when I was running for the European Parliament. I was the chief of staff from the second half of June. The slander campaign, using materials stolen during the first attack on April 27, began on August 25 (...) on government-controlled television," Brejza told the investigative commission.

Brejza listed the times of individual hacks on his phone including one on July 11, the day when KO was preparing its political programme, on July 30 when the KO election lists were being created, on August 29, when he was officially nominated for the Poland's State Electoral Commission and on October 8, when he won an election-related defamation case with an employee from the state-owned television station.

Ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski recently said that the creation and use of Pegasus was an outcome of technological change and the widespread use of encrypted communication apps, which could not be cracked by old-style surveillance methods.

"It would be bad if Polish agencies did not have such a tool," Kaczynski said, but refuted allegations that it was used against the opposition.

The Senate’s committee consists of seven senators. PiS, which has been offered two seats, refused to put forward any candidates.