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Moroccan authorities deny using spyware to monitor critics

FILE - In this March 5, 2020 file photo, journalist and activist Omar Radi speaks to the media after his hearing at the Casablanca Courthouse, In Casablanca, Morocco. Amnesty International says sophisticated telephone surveillance software appears to have been used to spy on journalist-activist Omar Radi in Morocco, in a continuing crackdown on dissent in the North African kingdom. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar, File)
FILE - In this March 5, 2020 file photo, journalist and activist Omar Radi speaks to the media after his hearing at the Casablanca Courthouse, In Casablanca, Morocco. Amnesty International says sophisticated telephone surveillance software appears to have been used to spy on journalist-activist Omar Radi in Morocco, in a continuing crackdown on dissent in the North African kingdom. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar, File) (Abdeljalil Bounhar)

RABAT – Moroccan authorities said they “categorically reject” an Amnesty International report claiming the government used surveillance software to spy on the phone of a prominent journalist and human rights activist.

In a report published this week, Amnesty said forensic analysis it carried out on the cellphone of Omar Radi indicated that his communications were monitored from January 2019 using technology developed by Israeli hacker-for-hire company NSO Group.

In a statement released late on Friday, Moroccan authorities rejected Amnesty's “baseless allegations,” saying that the report serves agendas motivated by hostility against Morocco and competitors in the intelligence market.

Amnesty's local director, Mohamed Sektaoui, was summoned by authorities Friday and asked to provide evidence “as soon as possible,” the statement said.

Radi was questioned by police on Thursday on suspicions of receiving funds linked to foreign intelligence services. He dismissed the allegations as “ridiculous.”

Radi was arrested last year after a tweet that defended anti-government protesters. He was subsequently put on trial in March this year, accused of insulting a judge with his tweet that slammed the prison sentences handed down to protest leaders. He received a four-month suspended jail sentence and a $50 fine.