At least a thousand phone numbers, including that of Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi, were found on the lists of possible victims of Israeli-made spy software sold to some governments. In the Indian parliament, the opposition calls for a parliamentary commission of inquiry. The case raises questions about the “evidence” found in Fr Stan Swamy’s computer. The Jesuit, who died from prison-related health issues, claimed that some files in his computer were not his.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – At least a thousand Indian phone numbers belonging to opposition lawmakers, journalists, human rights activists and judges were found on a list of potential surveillance targets created using the Israeli-made software Pegasus, this according to a consortium of international media and Amnesty International in a statement last Sunday.
In India this has led to accusations against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, since most of the people under surveillance are opponents of the current government, starting with Rahul Gandhi, leader of the Congress party.
Yesterday, the work of India’s parliament was disrupted several times by the opposition, which is calling for a commission of inquiry into the use of Pegasus.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, which is headed by Congress MP, will hold a hearing on July 28; the presence of the recently-appointed Information and Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw is expected.
Members of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) dismissed the accusations as an anti-Modi plot. Government officials also deny any illegal use of the software, but Indian security services have not.
NSO, the Israeli-based company that makes the software, said that it sold it only to “vetted governments”.
It appears that Indians were targeted only after Prime Minister Modi made a visit to Israel in 2017. The targeted Indians include 40 journalists, a former election commissioner, and several state officials in Karnataka.
The Congress party led this state until 2019, when a no-confidence vote by the state assembly paved the way for the BJP to win.
The presence of human rights activists on Pegasus' list also raises questions about the "evidence" gathered in the trials against them.
According to today’s The Hindu newspaper, the 16 people accused in the Bhima Koregaon case have repeatedly complained that their computers had been breached and files added.
Fr Stan Swamy, the 84-year-old Jesuit who died a few days ago after contracting COVID-19 behind bars, mentioned this during a court hearing about his application for release.
The clergyman was jailed on charges of terrorism for his alleged role in the Bhima Koregaon affair, during a Dalit demonstration on 1 January 2018.
“This is antithetical to the basic creed of democracy,” writes The Hindu. “The truth about these revelations must be unearthed through an investigation by a JPC or by the Supreme Court or any other credible mechanism. A starting point for the Government must be in clearing the air on the foremost question it is skirting around — has any Indian agency bought Pegasus?”