Princess Latifa campaigner had ‘phone compromised by Pegasus spyware’

A British human rights campaigner and lawyer who was fighting to free Dubai’s Princess Latifa had his mobile phone compromised by Pegasus spyware on 3 そして 4 8月 2020, according to a forensic analysis carried out by Amnesty International.

David Haigh is the first confirmed British victim of infiltration by Pegasus software, an attack suspected to have been ordered by Dubai, because of his connection with the 35-year-old princess, a daughter of the emirate’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed, and the Free Latifa campaign of which he was part.

At the time his phone was compromised, Haigh had been helping the legal team of Princess Haya, a wife of the sheikh, who is embroiled in a battle with the ruler of Dubai in the English courts over the custody of their young children.

Haya’s own legal team were arguing, ある程度, that Sheikh Mohammed’s treatment of Latifa meant that he should not be allowed to take control of the children. The case in the family courts is continuing.

Haigh, 43, said he was “horrified” by the idea his phone had been targeted, which he said came a few days after a year and a half of secret smartphone contact with Latifa, then held under house arrest in Dubai, had been suddenly lost.

The phone, Haigh said, contained dozens of messages and videos from Latifa, who had obtained a phone and made recordings from her bathroom, the only room where she could lock the door.

Some of the films, which described her plight, were later released by the Free Latifa campaign to BBC Panorama in February, including one in which the princess says: “The police threatened me that I’ll be in prison my whole life and I’ll never see the sun again.”

Haigh said he believed the attack amounted to “state-sponsored harassment” and called on the UK government to investigate “all use of Pegasus software on British soil”. The campaigner has also reported the incident to Devon and Cornwall police, where he lives, and the force has begun investigating.

Dubai did not respond to a request for comment on the targeting of Haigh’s device. But last week the United Arab Emirates, the federation of which Dubai is part, said claims that it had ordered any hacking were false.

“The allegations made by recent press reports claiming that the UAE is amongst a number of countries accused of alleged surveillance targeting of journalists and individuals have no evidentiary basis and are categorically false,” a statement from the country’s foreign ministry said.

ペガサス, made by NSO Group of Israel, is powerful surveillance spyware that the company says is licensed only to governments, to fight terrorism and serious and organised crime. It can steal and even delete the contents from a mobile – or turn on the microphone or camera covertly to act as a surveillance device.

NSO Group said it was “a technology company” and that it did not operate the Pegasus system or routinely have access to the data of its government customers. It did not respond directly to the alleged compromise of Haigh’s phone, but said in a statement it would “thoroughly investigate any credible proof of misuse of its technologies”.

A leaked list of 50,000 その電話番号, 以来 2016, are believed to have been selected as those of people of interest by government clients of NSO contains numbers for journalists, human rights campaigners and political leaders.

禁じられた物語, a Paris-based nonprofit journalism organisation, and Amnesty International initially had access to the list and shared access with 16 media organisations including the Guardian. The consortium believes the data indicates the potential targets that NSO’s government clients identified in advance of possible surveillance.

Following the leak, the company has come under investigation in its home country – although several governments as well as the UAE have denied misuse of the technology.

The number used by Haigh last August does not appear on the list, although the time periods appear different. より多い 400 of the British numbers listed have been linked to Dubai and the UAE, based on an analysis of the data, but they cover the period 2017 に 2019. Haigh’s phone was targeted using Pegasus a year after that.

A number belonging to Princess Haya, and eight of her associates, including a member of her legal team, do appear on the leaked list. Sheikh Mohammed “emphatically denies” having selected for potential surveillance the persons listed, or having instructed others to do so.

Haigh became a human rights campaigner focused on the Gulf, and particular the UAE after becoming embroiled in a bitter legal battle. He was found guilty by a Dubai court in 2015 of embezzling nearly £4m from GFH Capital, a Middle East private equity firm that had owned Leeds United, a charge he has always denied.

The Briton spent nearly two years in jail in Dubai both before and after the conviction, where he said he was raped and repeatedly tortured and abused, claims accepted as truthful by a Scottish court in 2017. 昨年, Haigh was ordered to repay the money in an English court, だが he was declared bankrupt last August, although it is due to be discharged this week.

It has not yet been possible to determine who ordered the Pegasus intrusion of Haigh’s phone from the Amnesty analysis. At this time, any country attribution can only be tentatively based on an examination of the timing and circumstances.

Amnesty’s analysis of Haigh’s phone concluded there was evidence of a Pegasus-related infection on 3 August via Apple’s iMessage – and that there had been “the execution of a Pegasus process” – that is, Pegasus-related activity – on 3 そして 4 8月 2020. It is not clear what impact this had in this case, しかしながら.

A fortnight earlier, オン 21 7月, Haigh and other members of the campaign had lost contact with Latifa. They assumed that meant her phone and covert communications with them had been discovered by the Dubai authorities and were discussing what to do next.

“The hacking of my phone happened 10 days after we lost contact with Princess Latifa after having had communication with her for over a year and a half via a smartphone we managed to smuggle into the Dubai jail where she was being held against her will,” Haigh said. “In addition, it came at the exact time I was due to meet representatives of a supportive royal family member of Latifa in London.”

Latifa had tried and failed to flee her home city by yacht in March 2018, a dramatic escape that ended with the boat she was on being stormed by Indian commandos off the coast of Goa, a raid ordered at the request of Dubai’s ruler.

For months it was unclear what had happened to the princess, until she began smuggling out videos to say she was being held in a “villa jail”. Since May, she has begun to enjoy a degree of freedom, with Instagram pictures showing her with friends at a Dubai shopping mall and at a Madrid airport terminal.

Three sources familiar with NSO’s operations said within the past year the company had stripped Dubai of its Pegasus licence. They said the decision had been informed primarily by human rights concerns, but did not dispute that using the software against Sheikh Mohammed’s own family members had also been a factor.

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