Morocco has not succeeded in having its lawsuit against journalist Ignacio Cembrero, whom it accused of having accused its secret services of having been responsible for espionage with the Pegasus programme, of which the journalist himself was a victim, upheld by the Spanish courts.
Judge Sonia Lence, head of the 72nd Court of First Instance of Madrid, has dismissed the lawsuit filed by the Kingdom of Morocco against the journalist, stating that the various statements made by Cembrero “do not authorise the plaintiff to bring a negative declaratory action because such expressions were made in response to the dissemination of a journalistic investigation (…) on people who had been the object of espionage through Pegasus”.
The judge emphasises that the journalist saw “messages published on his mobile device”. The defendant first became convinced of being spied on when he read two of his WhatsApp messages, in an article entitled “Cembrero, el ectoplasma de la Moncloa” and signed by Hassan Alaoui, director of Maroc Diplomatique, a publication sympathetic to the Moroccan authorities. These were messages exchanged with high-ranking Spanish government officials regarding the crisis with Morocco.
Furthermore, the ruling condemns Morocco to pay the costs of the proceedings, but it is unlikely that it will comply with it, since on other occasions it has invoked the diplomatic immunity it enjoys to avoid this obligation. The judgment is subject to appeal within 20 working days and Morocco has announced that it will appeal.
This is the fourth time since 2014 that the Moroccan authorities have taken journalist Ignacio Cembrero, who specialises in the Maghreb, to court, without ever achieving their objectives. The journalist obtained the backing of various press associations, as well as different political forces, from Podemos to the PP via Ciudadanos, Compromis and Bildu, but did not win the support of the government or the PSOE, whose MEPs spoke out against a resolution approved by a large majority in the European Parliament on 19 January, which called on the authorities to stop harassing Ignacio Cembrero.