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MEP sounds alarm at EU parliament over prison phone surveillance

European Parliament Strasbourg Hemicycle Diliff
The European Parliament

MEP Giorgos Georgiou has informed the head of the European parliament inquiry committee of claims and media reports on the alleged intention of phone surveillance at the Cyprus central prisons.

In his letter, marked urgent, to the head of the committee, Georgiou points to a letter leaked to the press, in which Justice Minister Stephie Drakou requests that the prisons department upgrade and use surveillance software.

Georgiou adds that this case elicits concern about the rule of law in Cyprus, given that companies that produce and export such software are active in the country.

The MEP, one of the vice presidents of the EP’s inquiry committee investigating the use of Pegasus and equivalent spyware (PEGA), sent a letter to its president, Dutch MEP Jeroen Lenaers, on the occasion of reports of illegal surveillance in Greece, suggesting that the committee conduct a fact finding mission in Athens.

The next meeting of the PEGA committee has been scheduled to take place on August 30th and is expected to focus on the use of surveillance software against citizens.

According to a press release, in his letter Georgiou says that a scandal has broken out in Cyprus regarding the Ministry of Justice reportedly allowing the surveillance of mobile phones inside prisons, instead of strengthening the use of jamming software.

Georgiou says that according to media reports, Justice Minister Stephie Drakou had orally instructed the prison department to upgrade and fully use the existing software, including by activating automatic surveillance which would record identifying data about phone devices, sim cards, date and time of calls and coordinates.

The MEP also said that in a letter sent by the ministry of justice to the prisons department on February 28th 2022, which was leaked to the press, the minister repeats her instructions in writing, which, he said, strengthens the reading that the ministry intended to upgrade the software so that it could be used for surveillance instead for jamming.

Regarding recent developments in Greece, Georgiou said that if it is confirmed that an MEP and party leader was being spied on that would be unacceptable, and recalled that the European Commission’s report on rule of law for 2022 contains specific reference to surveillance through the use of the Predator software, which is equivalent to Pegasus.

 

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