Mirwaiz and his driver, Geelani’s family among other names on leaked database
The latest report by The Wire under the Pegasus Project claims that atleast 4 members from the Senior Hurriyat leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s family were selected as potential targets for surveillance.
They were targets of an India based client of the Israeli NSO company who created the Pegasus Spyware. A French media organization, Forbidden Stories collaborated with Amnesty International on finding a leaked database of 50,000 telephone numbers to have been potential targets of surveillance by the governments of various countries.
They further collaborated with seventeen media organizations from around the world in this venture of investigative journalism. The Wire revealed that around 300 Indian telephone numbers present in the leaked database were verified by them and belonged to several journalists, activists, opposition leaders and academics as well.
Journalist Iftikhar Gilani and his son, scientist Syed Naseem Geelani “were of consistent interest to the Indian client of the NSO group between 2017 and 2019,” the report claims.
The Wire says that Syed Naseem Geelani communicated with them via SMS and said that he could have been a target of the potential surveillance due to his father’s political cues.
Reportedly, S.A.S Geelani does not use a mobile phone.
Further, the report says that Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the chief cleric of the Jamia Masjid and the head of the Hurriyat Conference was also a potential target of surveillance between 2017-2018.
Farooq’s driver was a possible target as well, as per the report.
Since the scrapping of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019, both the Hurriyat leaders have been under house arrest.
The Wire has reported to have contacted an anonymous senior aide of Farooq, who said that he was disturbed at the reports of Farooq’s fundamental rights having been put at stake.
“It is an infringement of the right to privacy and a human rights violation. In J&K where even basic rights of an entire population remain suspended, it is unlikely there will be redressal,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sajad Lone’s brother – Bilal Lone, the leader of the People’s Independent Movement’s phone was also targeted while he was active in politics.
The reports says that Lone’s phone data was examined by Amnesty International’s Security Lab.
And that this phone set was not the same set that he used at the time he was a potential target, forensic analysis revealed signs of Pegasus targeting in the year 2019.
As reported, Lone has now moved away from politics and is focusing on his bakery in uptown Srinagar.
“I used to hear rumours about phone tapping. It never occurred to me that I also may be a target. But I am too small a person to do anything about it,” said Bilal Lone.
While for some reasons, other potential targets’ phones could not be examined by The Wire.