Saudi Arabia and Israel’s NSO face new spyware challenge from Khashoggi Ally

Saudi Arabia and Israeli tech company NSO are facing another legal challenge in the UK, after British-Jordanian human rights activist Dr Azzam Tamimi filed a lawsuit against them.

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

He is represented by law firm Bindmans and the Global Legal Action Network, which launched a similar case earlier this year on behalf of three other UK-based civil society leaders and human rights activists. , which claim to have been hacked by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. using NSO’s Pegasus software.

Tamimi, founder and editor of the Al-Hiwar satellite TV channel, claims he was targeted by the Saudi state using the same spyware. His case in the High Court of England and Wales against NSO Group and Saudi Arabia is based on a claim of invasion of privacy.

“I was hacked with Pegasus spyware while in contact with Mr. Khashoggi, most likely in an attempt to silence a brave and widely respected journalist,” he said in a statement. “This deliberate and diabolical act shows that the regime will stop at nothing to crush freedom of expression and the human rights of those who criticize it. We will bring these issues to light and believe that justice will eventually prevail.

In August, the High Court ruled that Saudi dissident Ghanem Al-Masair could continue his lawsuit against the Saudi government, which also focuses on hacking his phone using Pegasus. Saudi Arabia’s argument that it was protected by sovereign immunity was rejected by the court.

Tayab Ali, a Bindmans partner, said the use of the 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 the services of security”. He called on the UK government to hold a public inquiry into the matter.

Siobhan Allen, Senior Lawyer at GLAN and General Counsel at Bindmans, added: “Powerful spyware is being deployed silently across borders by authoritarian states targeting human rights defenders who expect to be able to carry out their important work safely in the UK. The English courts must recognize that this should not have happened and cannot be allowed to continue with impunity.

In a report released in February 2021, the CIA ruled that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman approved the operation in Istanbul to capture or kill Khashoggi. Saudi officials have always denied this. Earlier this month, the Biden administration told a US court that MBS should have sovereign immunity in a civil case involving the murder because he had recently been promoted to prime minister.

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