Suspect arrested in Pegasus spyware case for illegally monitoring communications in Mexico

Smartphone with the website of Israel’s NSO Group which features ‘Pegasus’ spyware, on display in Paris on 21 July 2021.

  • A
    suspect has been arrested in Mexico for using the controversial Pegasus
    software to spy on a journalist.
  • The
    suspect – identified as Juan Carlos “G” – is thought to be the first
    arrested for using the spyware in Mexico.
  • He
    was detained on charges of illegally monitoring communications and transferred
    to a prison in Mexico City.

Mexico
City – Mexican prosecutors said on Monday that they had detained a man accused
of spying on a journalist using the Pegasus software at the centre of a global
spyware scandal.

The
suspect, identified as Juan Carlos “G”, is thought to be the first
person arrested in Mexico for using the controversial software developed by
Israeli firm NSO Group.

He
was detained in the central city of Queretaro on charges of illegally
monitoring communications and transferred to a prison in Mexico City, the
attorney general’s office said.

The
suspect’s actions against the unnamed journalist were aimed at “limiting
and undermining her freedom of expression”, it said in a statement.

In
July, an international media investigation called the Pegasus Project revealed
that 25 journalists in Mexico were among the targets of NSO clients.

Only spying on criminals

One
of them, Cecilio Pineda, was murdered in March 2017.

In
total, around 15 000 Mexican smartphone numbers were reported to be among more
than 50 000 believed to have been selected by NSO clients for potential
surveillance.

The
numbers included President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s inner circle when he
was opposition leader and political rival of then-president Enrique Pena Nieto.

According
to the Pegasus Project investigation, Mexican agencies that have acquired the
spyware include the defence ministry, the attorney general’s office, and the
national security intelligence service.

Lopez
Obrador has said that the authorities now only spy on criminals and not
political opponents or reporters.

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