UK Supreme Court rules Saudi Arabia not immune to spyware legal challenge against UK resident | Science and technology news
A human rights activist has been given the opportunity to sue the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia after alleging Saudi agents attacked him and infected his iPhones with spyware.
The High Court ruled on Friday Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has no immunity from legal challenge under the State Immunity Act 1978.
Ghanem Al-Masarir, 41, is a YouTube satirist and activist based in England since 2003.
He “has been instrumental in campaigns for political reform and human rights in Saudi Arabia,” according to the Supreme Court’s summary of his claim.
Mr Al-Mazarir alleges that the KSA hacked his phones with spyware developed by Israeli company NSO Group, which has since been sanctioned by the US government for its involvement in alleged human rights abuses.
His claim is that the spyware enabled Saudi regime operatives “to access his microphone and camera to hear and record what he was doing,” his lawyers at Leigh Day say.
He was also attacked in an attack outside Harrods in Knightsbridge, central London, on August 31, 2018 – the same year he was granted asylum in the UK – by people he claims were acting on behalf of the Saudi regime acted.
Lawyers representing the KSA argued there was no evidence it was responsible for the alleged phone infection or that the attack was carried out on behalf of the kingdom.
Mr Al-Masarir had been alerted to the surveillance by staff at the Citizen Lab, an interdisciplinary laboratory at the University of Toronto.
Citizen Lab has exposed many spyware cases and potential human rights abuses, including the alleged use of the tool at Downing Street.
He described today’s ruling – which refuted the KSA’s claim that it was immune from action in an English court – as a “huge relief”.
“The effects of the attack and spyware attacks, which I believe were orchestrated by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, are having a profound impact on my life,” he said in a statement after the verdict.
“I don’t feel safe anymore and I’m constantly looking over my shoulder. I no longer feel able to stand up for the oppressed Saudi people, fearing that any contact with people inside the kingdom could put them at risk.
“I look forward to bringing my full case to court in the hope that I can finally hold the Kingdom accountable for the harm I believe they have caused me,” he added.