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Ruling party figures say Poland has Pegasus spyware

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WARSAW (Reuters) - Senior figures in the Polish government indicated on Friday that the country had bought sophisticated spyware developed by the Israel-based NSO Group, but denied that it had been used against political opponents.

Reports from the Associated Press that NSO Group's Pegasus software was used to hack the phones of government critics, including a senator who ran the election campaign for the largest opposition party in 2019, have led to accusations that special services are undermining democratic norms.

Government figures had previously declined to comment on whether or not Poland has access to Pegasus, citing laws on official secrets. In December, a deputy defence minister said Poland did not use Pegasus.

However, in extracts from an interview with conservative weekly Sieci published on Friday, the leader of Poland's ruling nationalists Law and Justice (PiS) indicated that Polish services had the software.

"Pegasus is a program that is used by services combating crime and corruption in many countries...It would be bad if the Polish services did not have this type of tool," Jaroslaw Kaczynski was quoted as saying.

He rejected opposition claims that Pegasus had been used against political opponents as "utter nonsense".

Asked about Pegasus during a news conference, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said it would be a "disgrace" if Polish services did not have access to such surveillance technology.

Krzysztof Brejza, the senator who, according to research bt the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab project and Amnesty International had his phone hacked in 2019 while running the election campaign of the largest opposition party, said: "It is Jaroslaw Kaczynski who is talking nonsense."

"Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his people...took away Poles' right to free elections," he told private broadcaster TVN24.

(Reporting by Alan Charlish; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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