A human rights activist has been granted the ability to sue the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia after accusing Saudi agents of hacking him and infecting his iPhone with spyware.
The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that Arab Kingdom (KSA) does not have immunity from facing legal challenge under the State Waivers Act 1978.
Ghanem Al-Masarir, 41, is a YouTube satire writer and activist who has lived in the UK since 2003.
He has “prominently participated in campaigns for political reform and human rights in Saudi Arabia,” according to the Supreme Court’s summary of his lawsuit.
Al-Masarir claimed that KSA hacked his phone with spyware developed by the Israeli company NSO Group, which has been sanctioned by the US government for its involvement in alleged human rights violations.
His claim is that spyware has allowed agents of the Saudi regime “access to his microphone and camera to hear and record what he is doing”, his lawyers at Leigh Day said.
He was also attacked in an assault outside Harrods in Knightsbridge, central London, on 31 August 2018 – the same year he was granted asylum in the UK – by people he claimed were criminals. acting on behalf of the Saudi regime.
Lawyers representing the KSA argued that there was no evidence that they were responsible for the alleged phone infection or that the attack was carried out on behalf of the kingdom.
Mr Al-Masarir was revealed to be supervised by staff at The Citizen Lab, an interdisciplinary laboratory based at the University of Toronto.
Citizen Labs has brought many cases of spyware and potential human rights violations to light, including the alleged use of the tool inside Downing Street.
He described today’s ruling – discovered against the KSA’s claim that it was not sued in UK courts for the alleged actions – as a “major relief”.
“The impact of the attack and the spyware targeting, which I believe was orchestrated by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has had a profound effect on my life,” he said in a statement. after the judgment.
“I no longer feel safe and often look over my shoulder. I no longer feel able to speak out for those oppressed by Saudi Arabia because I fear that any contact with those inside. The kingdom can put them in danger.
“I look forward to presenting my entire case to the court in the hope that I can finally get hold of the Kingdom to resolve the suffering I believe they have caused me,” he added. .