Tuesday

5th Jul 2022

Tusk calls for probe into Poland phone hacking

  • Opposition leader Donald Tusk said that his party would seek the the establishment of a commission of inquiry in the Sejm to look into the spying allegations (Photo: European Parliament)
Listen to article

Polish opposition leader Donald Tusk, the former prime minister, called on Tuesday (28 December) for a parliament investigation into reports of surveillance against three people linked with the opposition.

"This is an unprecedented thing in our history. This is the biggest and deepest crisis of democracy after 1989," Tusk, who also served as the president of the European Council between 2014 and 2019, said.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Tusk added that his party would seek the establishment of a commission of inquiry in the Sejm, the lower house of parliament, to look into allegations of surveillance with the powerful spy software, Pegasus.

Earlier this month, the Associated Press (AP) reported that researchers at the University of Toronto had found that the phones of three Polish people associated with the opposition were hacked using Pegasus.

Opposition senator Krzysztof Brejza, Ewa Wrzosek, a prosecutor critical of the government's judicial reforms, and Roman Giertych, a lawyer who has represented opposition figures, say that Poland's ruling nationalists Law and Justice (PiS) party was responsible for the hacking.

PiS has a majority in the parliament and it remains to be seen if they would back such an inquiry, however.

Prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Tuesday said that the reports on spying were "fake news", AP reported.

Morawiecki added that he had no knowledge of any surveillance but suggested that if there had been spying, it might have been done by intelligence services hostile towards Poland.

The spyware, made by the Israeli NSO Group, turns phones into spying devices, allowing the spyware user to read the target's messages, look through their photos, track their location, and even turn on their camera without them knowing.

Failure to act

In the meantime, Brejza, the Polish opposition senator who believes his phone was hacked has accused prosecutors of failing to act on the case.

But Stanisław Żaryn, a spokesman for the Polish security services, said the allegations that Polish services "use these methods in operational work for political ends are false", AFP reported

He did not confirm or deny whether Poland had used Pegasus but said "operational work" in Poland can only be carried out on request from the prosecutor general and after a court order.

A PiS spokeswoman declined to comment to Reuters.

"The prosecutor's office is doing nothing, it is paralysed," senator Brejza told Reuters by telephone, adding that he had notified prosecutors about possible phone hacking in September.

"The prosecutors' office is playing for time - they do not want to launch an investigation or refuse to launch an investigation, they just treat it as a hot potato that is best to throw somewhere else," Brejza said.

He claimed that the complaint had been passed between prosecutors' offices around the country without any effect.

The prosecutors' offices did not immediately respond to Reuters' requests for comments.

Government critics say that the Polish judiciary, including the prosecutors' office has been politicised.

Justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro, who is in charge of the judicial overhaul that the EU says undermines the independence of courts, also serves as prosecutor general.

The NSO Group says it makes technology for use by governments and law enforcement agencies to combat crime and terrorism.

Digital rights researchers say Pegasus has been used to spy on civil society and journalists in several countries, including Hungary.

Just like Poland, Hungary is entangled in a rule-of-law row with the EU, which has launched a probe against the two countries' governments over judicial independence and alleged democratic backsliding.

Polish rule-of-law debate boils over to EU summit

The summit discussion comes after the EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said this week the bloc's executive will take action against Warsaw, for challenging the supremacy of EU law.

Analysis

EU Commission letters to Poland, Hungary: too little, too late?

The EU Commission has made a first move in the battle that could result in financial sanctions against Hungary and Poland over rule-of-law issues. However, this initial step has irritated those arguing for quicker action.

Opinion

Romania — latest EU hotspot in backlash against LGBT rights

Romania isn't the only country portraying lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people as a threat to children. From Poland and Hungary in EU, to reactionary movements around the world are prohibiting portrayals of LGBT people and families in schools.

News in Brief

  1. Turkey signs Nato protocol despite Sweden extradition row
  2. European gas production hit by Norway strike
  3. EU Commission told to step up fight against CAP fraud
  4. Ukraine needs €719bn to rebuild, says PM
  5. Germany records first monthly trade deficit since 1991
  6. Pilots from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden strike
  7. Report: EU to sign hydrogen deal with Namibia
  8. Israel and Poland to mend relations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. EU Parliament sued over secrecy on Nazi MEP expenses
  2. Italy glacier tragedy has 'everything to do' with climate change
  3. The Digital Services Act — a case-study in keeping public in dark
  4. Report slams German opposition to new child sexual abuse rules
  5. Is China a challenge to Nato? Beijing responds
  6. ECB announces major green shift in corporate bond-buying
  7. Ex-Frontex chief 'uninvited' from parliament committee
  8. Czech presidency and key nuclear/gas vote This WEEK

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us