Home Hacking Khashoggi ally takes KSA, Israeli NSO to court over Pegasus hacking

Khashoggi ally takes KSA, Israeli NSO to court over Pegasus hacking

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A UK activist launches legal proceedings against Saudi Arabia and Israeli spyware company NSO.

  • Friends and supporters of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi held funeral prayers over an empty marble slab at one of Istanbul’s holiest mosques in November 2018. Source: Huseyin Aldemir/Reuters
    Friends and supporters of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi held funeral prayers over an empty marble slab at one of Istanbul’s holiest mosques in November 2018. (Reuters)

Saudi Arabia and Israeli technology company NSO face another legal challenge in the UK after British-Jordanian human rights activist Azzam Tamimi launched legal proceedings against them.

Tamimi was a friend of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

He is being represented by the law firm Bindmans and the Global Legal Action Network, which, earlier this year, filed a similar lawsuit on behalf of three other UK-based human rights activists and leaders of civil society who contend that the UAE and Saudi Arabia used NSO’s Pegasus software to hack them.

The founder and editor-in-chief of the satellite television network Al-Hiwar, Tamimi, accuses the Saudi government of using the same spyware to target him. His claim for a privacy breach is based on his case in the High Court of England & Wales against NSO Group and Saudi Arabia.

Read next: Bin Salman’s “Cyberweapon”: Not Only Against Saudis

“I was hacked with Pegasus spyware while I was in touch with Khashoggi, most likely with a view to silencing a brave and widely respected journalist,” he said in a statement. “This deliberate and evil act shows that the regime will stop at nothing to crush free speech and the human rights of those who criticize it. We will bring these matters into the light and believe that justice will prevail in the end.”

The High Court ruled that Saudi dissident Ghanem Al-Masarir could proceed with his case in August against the Saudi government, which also centers on the hacking of his phone using Pegasus. Saudi Arabia’s argument that it was protected by sovereign immunity was dismissed by the court.

A partner at Bindmans, Tayab Ali, said the use of spyware in the UK by foreign states was “such a serious breach of national security that it should be of major concern to the UK government and security services.” He called on the UK government to hold a public inquiry into the issue.

“Powerful spyware is being silently deployed across borders by authoritarian states targeting human rights defenders who expect to be able to conduct their crucial work safely in the UK,” said Siobhan Allen, a senior attorney with GLAN and consultant solicitor at Bindmans.

“The English courts need to recognize that this should not have happened and cannot be allowed to continue with impunity.”

Read next: Biden intelligence advisor involved in Israeli NSO spyware deals

The CIA judged that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman had approved the operation in Istanbul to capture or kill Khashoggi, according to an assessment released in February 2021. Saudi officials have always denied this.

The Biden administration argued before a US court earlier this month that since MBS had just been appointed prime minister, he should be given sovereign immunity in a civil case involving the murder.

Read more: Amnesty: US immunity to MBS ‘deep betrayal’

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