The Spanish intelligence agency (CNI) chief Paz Esteban has been dismissed amid allegations that Catalan separatists and members of the government were spied on, Defence Minister Margarita Robles announced on Tuesday.
Esteban admitted last Thursday that the phones of at least 18 Catalan separatists, including regional president Pere Aragonès, had been monitored using Israeli Pegasus software.
Robles, who appointed Esteban in 2020, is also under pressure due to the allegations. She avoided criticism of Esteban and explained no reasons for her dismissal.
The CNI intelligence agency is now to be headed by Esperanza Casteleiro, former secretary of state in the Ministry of Defence.
The affair, known as 'Catalangate', threatens the stability of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's minority government. He depends on the votes of Catalan separatists in parliament, but the group is questioning whether it will continue to support the Sánchez government.
The Catalan separatists demanded the dismissal of Esteban and also of Robles, among other calls.
The reports of spying were first revealed by the New Yorker magazine, based on a study by Canadian research group Citizen Lab.
Spied Prime Minister
Pegasus spyware was also found in cell phones belonging to Sánchez, Robles and Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska, according to recent reports.
The Pegasus software developed by the Israeli cyber-arms company NSO Group is capable of reading text messages, tracking calls, collecting passwords and location tracking, among other things.
NSO has repeatedly stressed that Pegasus is only sold to government organizations.