News 20 july — 13:08

Loud scandal: Phones of politicians and journalists in Azerbaijan tapped? List includes names of two haqqin.az employees - Eynulla Fatullayev and Inara Rafiggizi

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BY INFORMATION SECTION

Intelligence agencies around the world have used Pegasus software, created by Israel's NSO Group, to spy on the phones of politicians, journalists and civil society activists. This was reported by the international journalistic organisation OCCRP. It should be noted that the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), founded in 2007 in Sarajevo, is an association of media and individual reporters engaged in investigative journalism in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Latin America and Africa.

Intelligence services, law enforcement and military agencies have been granted access to Pegasus since 2016. Human rights organisations gained access to a list of numbers that were being followed: these are 50 thousand people from 50 countries. Among them, representatives of the Arab countries of the Middle East, top managers, human rights defenders, journalists and ministers were found. Most of the numbers are concentrated in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Hungary, India and the United Arab Emirates.

'NSO Group sells the Pegasus program to dozens of countries. Earlier, an iPhone user, in order to be tapped, had to click on the link planted for him in order for his phone to be hacked, but now this is required no more. You are not doing anything at all, your phone is on the table, but at any moment it can be hacked,' one of the owners of a tapped phone Bill Marshak, a senior researcher at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, told BBC.

Pegasus is a spy program that infects Android and iOS devices and allows intelligence agencies to access messages, phone calls, mail and photos. In addition, the software allows you to secretly, without the knowledge of the owner of the smartphone, launch a camera and microphone on the device, and also makes it possible to track the movements of the owner of the device.

Spyware allegedly was installed on the phones of 85 human rights activists, 189 journalists, more than 600 politicians and statesmen, including members of governments, several heads of state, diplomats, security and military officers, writes The Washington Post.

Early this morning, Israeli software company NSO Group released an official statement denying espionage allegations. They clarified that the program is used to prevent crimes and terrorist attacks in order to save lives and is supplied only to states that respect human rights.

And now about the most important thing - the hacking of the operating system of telephones in Azerbaijan. The day before yesterday, the OCCRP published a list of politicians, journalists and civil activists in Baku, whose phones were hacked using the Pegasus program. OCCRP reports that information about the so-called 'victims' from Azerbaijan was obtained from international human rights organisations, in particular Amnesty International. The names of 70 Azerbaijani public figures were published on the organisation's website. Among them are the names of the head of the Haqqin.Az Group (haqqin.az , virtualaz.org , azeridaily.com) Eynulla Fatullayev and our court reporter Inara Rafiggizi. Several hours later, the Organisation deleted the list of names without giving any reason. The names of well-known journalists and public figures in Azerbaijan, whose phones were allegedly hacked, have been made public. The OCCRP list of victims included the names of the chairman of the Union of Journalists of Azerbaijan Elchin Shikhly, editor-in-chief of the Yeni Musavat newspaper Rauf Arifoglu, president of Real TV Mirshakhin Agayev, general director of Turan news agency Mehman Aliyev, president of APA news agency Vusala Mahirgizi, president of the TV company ANS Vahid Mustafayev, human rights defenders Saida Gojamanli, Saadat Benanyarli, Arzu Abdullayeva, bloggers Mehman Huseynov and Bakhtiyar Hajiyev and many other well-known people.

Eynulla Fatullayev

Inara Rafiggizi

Late at night, Eynulla Fatullayev's Whatsapp received a letter signed by OCCRP Deputy Editor-in-Chief Miranda Patrucic. The letter indicates that the international journalistic organisation, together with the world's leading media - The Washington Post, The Guardian and Le Monde - is conducting a journalistic investigation in connection with the penetration of hackers into smartphones of civil activists and journalists. According to Patrucic, starting in 2019, E. Fatullayev's phone was under the control of state bodies. OCCRP invited the Azerbaijani journalist to provide support and start cooperation to fully investigate the circumstances of this case.

On July 19, the editorial office of haqqin.az (azeridaily.com) appealed to the State Security Service o Azerbaijan with a request to clarify the information released by OCCRP. High-ranking representatives of the SSS categorically denied this information and called it fiction and provocation. And in a conversation with a correspondent of the newspaper Yeni Musavat, a representative of the State Security Service asked the question: 'If the Azerbaijani special services could hack phones with the help of this system, why among the published names there are no representatives of state departments and members of the government of Armenia, with which Azerbaijan conducted active combat actions?'

Indeed, since July 2019, Azerbaijan has been at war with Armenia. Why are there no names of Armenian politicians on the list, if the Azerbaijani special services had such an opportunity?

The list published by OCCRP does not include the names of Armenian politicians and military leaders. Although the same list contains the names of Ganimat Zahid, editor-in-chief of the opposition newspaper Azadlig, who lives in France, and Jasur Sumerenli, a military expert in Germany. It turns out that with the help of the Pegasus program you can hack a gadget in France and Germany, but is it quite difficult to reach smartphones in Yerevan? Indeed, the absence of people from Armenia on the list of tapped people is not at all in favour of the reliability of the list for Azerbaijan.

In the near future, Azeri Daily will return to this topic in its publications.

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