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Saudi dissident sues Israeli spyware firm over Khashoggi killing

Omar Abdulaziz says the hacking exposed his communications with Jamal Khashoggi [Getty]

Date of publication: 3 December, 2018

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Omar Abdulaziz has filed a lawsuit against an Israeli surveillance company, claiming its sophisticated spyware targeted him and helped lead to the killing of his friend, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
A Saudi dissident close to murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Sunday filed a lawsuit in a Tel Aviv court against an Israeli spyware company, claiming its sophisticated system helped lead to the killing of his friend.

Omar Abdulaziz said his phone was targeted by hacking software made by Israel's NSO Group, exposing his communications with Khashoggi to Saudi authorities.

The 27-year-old Saudi activist, who is exiled in Canada, is a sharp critic of the Saudi monarchy on social media. He rankled authorities with a YouTube show that satirised the Saudi leadership.

He worked with Khashoggi on a project to rein in online Saudi trolls, according to court documents obtained by AP. Abdulaziz believes that the project angered Saudi rulers and "cost Khashoggi his life".

The lawsuit follows other suits filed by Mexican and Qatari citizens over the company's software, known as Pegasus.

Khashoggi, a critic of powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, in what sources close to the government have said was an authorised rendition that went wrong.

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Last month, Abdulaziz revealed regime attempts to lure him to the Saudi embassy in Ottawa as an apparent trap to return him to the kingdom.

He said he was also approached by Saudi officials who urged him to visit the embassy with them to collect a new passport.

"They were saying 'it will only take one hour, just come with us to the embassy'," Abdulaziz said in a video posted on Twitter. He refused to visit the embassy.

In June, he received a text message containing a link that appeared to be tracking the shipment of a package but it was a mask link to the NSO Group's spyware, the court documents revealed. It later transpired that Abdulaziz's phone was hacked and that the Saudi regime was behind it.

According to The New York Times, Abdulaziz's lawyer intends to argue that the exposure of the work between their client and Khashoggi "contributed in a significant manner to the decision to murder Mr. Khashoggi".

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