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Saudi dissident in Canada says Riyadh tapped calls with Khashoggi

Khashoggi went missing when he visited the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 October, 2018

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A report by the internet watchdog Citizen Lab revealed Saudi Arabia had used Israeli-made spyware to monitor Canada-based dissident Omar Abdulaziz.

A Saudi dissident in Quebec believes the kingdom hacked his phone and listened to calls he had with Jamal Khashoggi prior to the journalist's disappearance.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor and US permanent resident whose writings have been critical of powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has been missing since entering the country's consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

"For sure, they listened to the conversation between me and Jamal and other activists, in Canada, in the States, in Turkey, in Saudi Arabia," Omar Abdulaziz said in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Abdulaziz said he was working on several projects with Khashoggi in recent months, including a campaign to counter Riyadh's pro-government propaganda on social media.

Khashoggi "promised me to sponsor the project and I guess they could listen in to those conversations," he said.

"His voice was a headache for the Saudi government," said Abdulaziz.

Earlier this month, a report by the internet watchdog Citizen Lab revealed Saudi Arabia had used Israeli-made spyware to monitor Canada-based dissident Abdulaziz, who claimed political refuge in the country in 2014.

The spyware, known as Pegasus, is marketed as a tool to thwart terrorism but critics say it is used to violate the human rights of dissidents worldwide.

The Saudi government revoked Abdulaziz's scholarship to study abroad in 2014, after which he applied for asylum and was granted permanent residency that year.

In August, the same month Abdulaziz's phone was hacked, authorities showed up at the doorstep of his brother's home in Saudi Arabia and was threatened by authorities. 

In addition to Saudi Arabia, a number of other Gulf states - including the UAE and Bahrain - are likely using Pegasus spyware to snoop on activists, according to Citizen Lab. 

A September report by the watchdog said it detected Pegasus in more than 45 countries. 

Amnesty International also revealed this year that a member of staff and a Saudi activist working with the organisation has been targeted using Pegasus.

Turkish officials have said they believe Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate and lurid claims have been leaked to media that he was tortured and even dismembered.

Saudi officials call the allegations "baseless" but provide no counter-evidence to explain his fate.

Agencies contributed to this report.
 

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