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France-Morocco ties remain damaged by Israel spyware claims

A woman checks the website of Israel-made Pegasus spyware at an office in the Cypriot capital Nicosia on July 21, 2021. - Reports that Israel-made Pegasus spyware has been used to monitor activists, journalists and politicians around the world highlight the diplomatic risks of nurturing and exporting "oppressive technology", experts warned. Private Israeli firm NSO Group has denied media reports its Pegasus software is linked to the mass surveillance of journalists and rights defenders, and insisted that all sales of its technology are approved by Israel's defence ministry. (Photo by Mario GOLDMAN / AFP) (Photo by MARIO GOLDMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
The website of Israel-made Pegasus spyware at an office on July 21, 2021 [MARIO GOLDMAN/AFP via Getty Images]

French-Moroccan relations have been strained for months in the wake of claims that Rabat used Israel's Pegasus spyware to gather information from the phones of French officials including President Emmanuel Macron.

Last July, French prosecutors said they opened a probe into allegations that Moroccan intelligence services used the Israeli-made malware Pegasus to spy on several French journalists.

The probe came after a ground-breaking collaboration by more than 80 journalists from 17 media organisations in ten countries found that as many as 50,000 phone numbers were said to have been selected by numerous states for surveillance using the Israeli snooping technology.

Macron, former French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and 14 French ministers were targeted for potential surveillance on behalf of Morocco in the Pegasus spyware case, the investigation revealed.

A retired French veteran diplomat said visits between French and Moroccan ministers have stopped because Paris has not yet decided whether Rabat spied on Macron or not.

In the wake of the French accusations, Morocco filed defamation claims against Amnesty International and French media non-profit Forbidden Stories, who claimed Rabat's intelligence services had used the Pegasus mobile phone spyware against dozens of French journalists and officials, including Macron.

READ: Phone of jailed Indian activist hacked by Israel spyware

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