15 July 2020 - 12:50
News ID: 450467
A
An Israeli court dismissed Amnesty International’s legal bid to revoke the export license of spyware firm NSO Group over allegations of cyber-espionage on human rights activists and others.

Rasa - On Monday, a Tel Aviv District Court judge found the evidence provided by the UK-based rights group as insufficient to back up its accusations against the Israeli firm, according to presstv.

Amnesty says governments around the world have used NSO’s cell phone-hacking software, Pegasus, to crack down on activists through conducting cyber-espionage on their mobiles, including by the messaging service WhatsApp, which is currently suing the Israeli firm in a US court.

Being a highly invasive tool, Pegasus is said to be able to turn on the victim’s cell phone camera and microphone and access data on it, meaning that it can effectively turn the phone into a pocket spy.

The rights group adds Pegasus has been used against one of its staffers and petitioned the Tel Aviv court to revoke its export license issued by Israel’s ministry of military affairs.

However, Judge Rachel Barkai in his ruling on Monday dismissed the petition, claiming there was “no evidence that an attempt has been made to monitor a human rights activist while trying to gain access to his telephone”.

In response, Amnesty’s co-director for tech, Danna Ingleton, lambasted the ruling as “disgraceful,” and “a cruel blow to people put at risk around the world by NSO Group selling its products to notorious human rights abusers”.

She added that NSO’s products were aiding governments to commit rights violations “from Saudi Arabia to Mexico”.

Additionally, the rights group’s branch in Israel also announced in a statement that a “mountain of evidence was ignored”, describing the court’s dismissal “a rubber stamp to” Israel’s ministry of military affairs’ “impunity to human rights violations”.

The Israeli firm has been in the headlines since 2016 when experts stated it was helping spy on an activist in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, through a study, has already found a link between the NSO technology and political surveillance in Mexico, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. 

Victims of these hacking spree included diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and top government officials.

The Israeli firm rejects the allegations.

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