A human rights activist has been granted the option to sue the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia after he alleged Saudi agents assaulted him and infected his iPhones with spyware.
The High Court ruled on Friday that Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) does not have immunity from facing legal challenge under the State Immunity Act of 1978.
Ghanem Al-Masar, 41, is a YouTube satirist and activist who has lived in England since 2003.
He “was prominently involved in the campaign for political reform and human rights in Saudi Arabia”, according to the High Court’s summary of his complaint.
Mr Al-Masarir claims Saudi Arabia hacked into his phones using spyware developed by Israeli firm NSO Group, which has since been sanctioned by the US government for its involvement in alleged rights abuses of man.
His claim is that the spyware allowed Saudi regime personnel “to access his microphone and camera to hear and record what he was doing”, his lawyers tell Leigh Day.
He was also assaulted 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 who, he said, were acting on behalf of the Saudi regime.
Lawyers representing Saudi Arabia have argued that there is no evidence that it was responsible for the alleged phone infection or that the attack was carried out in the name of the kingdom.
Al-Masarir had been briefed on the surveillance by staff at Citizen Lab, an interdisciplinary lab based at the University of Toronto.
The Citizen Lab has brought to light numerous cases of spyware and potential human rights abuses, including alleged tool use inside Downing Street.
He described today’s ruling – which ruled against the KSA’s claim that it was safe from being dragged into an English court over the alleged actions – as a ‘huge relief’ .
“The impact of the assault and targeting with spyware, which I believe was orchestrated by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, had a profound effect on my life,” he said in a statement. communicated following the decision.
“I no longer feel safe and I constantly look over my shoulder. I no longer feel able to speak on behalf of the oppressed Saudi people because I fear that any contact with people inside the Kingdom will harm them. endangers.
“I look forward to presenting my full case in court in the hope that I can finally hold the Kingdom to account for the suffering they have caused me,” he added.