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Pegasus snooping: Himanta demands total ban on Amnesty

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Chief Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma addressing a press conference, at Assam Legislative Assembly in Guwahati, Tuesday.

GUWAHARTI: Advocating for a total ban on Amnesty International in the country for its alleged role in the Pegasus snooping controversy, chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Tuesday claimed that the entire episode is an international conspiracy to to malign Indian democracy and defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Various Left-wing organisations throughout the world, including Amnesty International, are part of the conspiracy,” Sarma said while addressing a press conference here on Tuesday.

Amnesty International said that several journalists, politicians, human rights lawyers and businessmen across the world including from India were at risk of having their whereabouts monitored, and their personal information was used against them.

A leaked list of “potential” or actual targets spying by Israeli company NSO’s Pegasus included former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, former election commissioner Ashok Lavasa, election strategist Prashant Kishor, Trinamool Congress leader Abhishek Banerjee and Union ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw and Prahlad Patel etc.

“Even as the Centre has clarified that it’s false and none of such spying has happened, internal groups like Amnesty International have been trying to slam baseless allegations on the government. It’s just a part of a larger conspiracy against India,” Sarma said.

“People of Assam have full faith in Indian’s democracy and Prime Minister Modi. I demand a total ban on Amnesty International’s activities in the country. They are only encouraging left wing terrorism in the country,” he said.

The chief minister also asked Rahul Gandhi to send his phone to Assam if necessary to run a forensic test on it.

“If Rahul Gandhi believes in the Pegasus report then why did not he send his phone for a forensic test? In fact, he can send it to Assam and we can run the test. Forensic tests will clear all the doubts,” Sarma added.

Two mobile phones used by Rahul Gandhi reportedly appeared on the list.

The controversy erupted after a report was published by The Wire news portal from India as also 16 other international publications as media partners to an investigation conducted by Paris-based media non-profit organisation Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International into a leaked list of more than 50,000 phone numbers from across the world that are believed to have been the target of surveillance through Pegasus software of Israeli surveillance company NSO Group.

As per the reports, the phones targeted were infiltrated by malicious software called Pegasus, which is sold by the NSO Group. The spyware is believed to be able to secretly unlock the target’s phone, computer or other devices, collect information and transfer it to another device without the permission of the user.

The Israeli company has said it sells Pegasus only to government agencies to fight terrorism and other serious crime.

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