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MEPs to visit Cyprus in Pegasus spyware probe

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The use of spyware software will be the focus of discussions between Cypriot and EU lawmakers, who will meet on November 2.

Chairman of the House legal committee Nicos Tornaritis on Wednesday said a joint session of the House legal and institutions committees will meet with the EU parliament’s committee on the use of Pegasus software and related spyware (Pega).

The European parliament set up a special committee back in March to investigate the use of spyware and any link between Cyprus and the eavesdropping affair in Greece.

The connecting thread between the two countries is thought to be the use of Predator software – deployed in Greece against a journalist and an opposition politician – given that the spyware is owned by a company formerly incorporated in Cyprus.

A type of spyware called Predator was deployed against Nikos Androulakis, the leader of Greece’s opposition socialist Pasok party, and journalist Thanasis Koukakis, according to a forensic analysis by digital rights group Citizen Lab and the European parliament produced in March this year.

Tornaritis also noted that opposition Akel has registered the issue of surveillance with the House legal committee, which will be discussed on November 9, exactly one week after the joint session with the committee of the EU parliament, which will be open to the representatives of media.

Tornaritis said that there had been some surveillance legislation passed by parliament. “I have already instructed parliamentary services to prepare a comprehensive text so that we are ready to answer any question concerning parliament and the laws or regulations it has passed,” he added.

Meanwhile, Akel’s Aristos Damianou said his party attaches particular importance to the meeting that the EU parliament’s special investigative committee will have with Cypriot lawmakers.

“In our opinion, this meeting must have substantial content in order to present the real dimension of the data regarding the surveillance,” he said.

Furthermore, he noted that Akel long ago registered “a special issue for the business activity of dual-purpose software production companies, which export these products outside Cyprus, leaving the island fatally exposed, as a result of which our state is being discussed in the EU and in the Greek parliament,” he added.

He described the issue of surveillance as “very serious”, pointing out that “at some point those in charge will have to stop hiding”.

Asked about the issues that will be raised during the discussion with the Pega committee, Damianou noted there is an open line of communication with the European parliament, “especially when Akel MEP and vice-president of the United Left Group, George Georgiou, participates continuously and takes the lead in discussions within the European parliament”.

He added that “at the national level, we have been too late in discussing this very serious issue concerning constitutional rights and political liberties in the Republic of Cyprus”.

Damianou concluded that his party will position itself publicly “with absolute transparency and without saying big words on a series of issues”.

For his part, Diko’s Panicos Leonidou said the issue of surveillance was something that worries his party, suggesting that things are not so simple – “since some third parties intervene in personal data issues – but it is also dangerous regarding matters of state security,” he stressed.

The committee is scheduled to submit a final report in 12 months’ time.

 

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