The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia defended itself against the accusations that it was involved in spying on dissidents using an Israeli program, according to press reports.
Saudi Arabia denied the authenticity of the reports that indicated its involvement in the espionage operations, which affected those close to the assassinated Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and prominent media professionals and politicians, most notably an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
– Erem News (@EremNews) July 21, 2021
And the Saudi Press Agency quoted, on Wednesday evening, an unnamed official source, who denied “allegations contained in some press reports regarding the allegation that an entity in the Kingdom used a program to follow up communications.”
The same source added that “these allegations are unfounded,” stressing that “the Kingdom’s approach and policy are consistent and do not endorse such practices.”
The British newspapers, “The Guardian”, the American “Washington Post” and the French “Le Monde” earlier published the results of an investigation conducted by 17 media organizations, through which they revealed that the “Pegasus” spyware program, which is manufactured by the Israeli company “NSO”, has spread. widespread around the world, and “used for bad purposes”.
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The investigation alleged that governments of at least 10 countries were among NSO’s clients, including Morocco and Saudi Arabia.
He said that the “NSO” company sold the “Pegasus” program to Saudi Arabia, in 2017, and the Kingdom, in turn, “used it in a harsh campaign to crush opponents at home, and hunt down those who live outside the country.”
Pegasus is designed to be installed remotely in hacked devices that can operate a target’s mobile phone camera and microphone and access its data.
NSO was established in 2010, employs about 500 employees, and is headquartered in Tel Aviv.
Khashoggi and his acquaintances
Among the focus of the investigation is that the spyware “Pegasus” was used secretly to target the phones of several Prime Time Zone close to the assassinated Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.
Among them are members of his family and prominent media figures close to him, in addition to politicians, most notably an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
According to a report by the American newspaper “Washington Post”, one of the users of Pegasus software targeted the phone of Khashoggi’s wife, Hanan al-Etr, who runs the “Android” system before Khashoggi’s murder, and the spyware was also used to hack the iPhone of his fiancée, Khadija Cengiz, days after he was killed.
According to the same report, the phone of another close associate of Khashoggi was successfully hacked after the journalist’s murder. The numbers of two other close Prime Time Zone and senior Turkish officials linked to the investigation into his murder also appeared on the list.
Wadah Khanfar’s phone hacked
Another confidant of Khashoggi whose phone was hacked by Pegasus, according to the examination, was Waddah Khanfar, a former Al Jazeera journalist and former general manager of the network.
“I felt like my phone or Genghis’ phone might have been hacked, because some of the conversations we had about Jamal’s disappearance came out in the early days,” Khanfar says.
Khashoggi’s associates whose phone numbers appear on the list but whose smartphones have not been scanned are Turkish journalist Turan Keslakci and an exiled human rights defender in London who spoke on the condition of anonymity; Fearing for his safety.
Also appearing in the list are two Turkish officials involved in the investigation into the Khashoggi murder, Irfan Fidan, the then-prosecutor, and Yasin Aktay, a member of the ruling Islamist party and advisor to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who refused to submit their phones for examination.
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