A trial centering on accusations that tools designed by
the infamous spyware maker NSO Group were used to spy on a Canadian-born Saudi
dissident is moving forward and it’s happening in an open forum.
The man, Omar Abdulaziz, might be familiar to people who
followed the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the
Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. According to a report
in The Guardian, Abdulaziz exchanged messages with Jamal Khashoggi prior to his
The NSO Group focuses on building spyware tools,
identifying zero-day exploits, and selling them to states interested in
surveilling its citizens. In fact, this is the entire basis of the trial brought
by Abdulaziz against NSO Group, which claims that its tools, going by the name
Pegasus, were used by Saudi authorities to intercept his communications.
Abdulaziz is not the first to sue NSO Group, but this is
the farthest a trial has advanced against the company. Israeli judge Guy Hyman
rejected the companies’ request for dismissal and went even further, allowing
public hearings even though important security issues could be discussed in
“The scope is very broad, especially in matters of the
roots of constitutional values and fundamental rights,” said the judge. “The
ruling, therefore, in my view, must be public.”
Abdulaziz seeks 600,000 shekels (approx. $173,000) in
damages. The NSO Group didn’t want to comment on the trial and appealed the
court’s decision to move further with the trial.
NSO’s official position is that it licenses its technologies,
and it’s not their responsibility for how they are used. “NSO’s technology is
only licensed, as a lawful solution, to government intelligence and law
enforcement agencies for the sole purpose of preventing and investigating
terror and serious crime,” said an NSO spokesperson.