Saudi women's rights activist says phone hack by US contractors led to arrest

A Saudi Arabian women's rights activist accused three former US intelligence contractors of an illegal hack of her phone that was instrumental in her being arrested and later tortured in her home country, according to a lawsuit filed in a US court.

Published : 10 Dec 2021, 04:08 AM
Updated : 10 Dec 2021, 04:08 AM

Loujain al-Hathloul helped lead a campaign to allow Saudi Arabian women to drive by live-streaming herself violating the ban, which was lifted in 2018.

She spent almost three years in Saudi jails and is currently banned from leaving the Kingdom. The lawsuit was filed on her behalf on Thursday in a federal court in Oregon by the privacy non-profit organisation Electronic Frontier Foundation.

It alleged that the surveillance operation run by the three ex-contractors and DarkMatter, a United Arab Emirates cybersecurity company, led to al-Hathloul's arrest by the UAE’s security services.

From there she was extradited by private plane to Saudi Arabia, "where she was detained, imprisoned and tortured," according to the lawsuit.

A 2019 Reuters investigation, cited by the lawsuit, revealed that al-Hathloul was targeted in 2017 by a team of US mercenaries who surveilled dissidents on behalf of the UAE under a program called Project Raven, which categorized her as a national security threat and hacked into her iPhone.

Al-Hathloul said that as she was tortured, interrogators mentioned communications they apparently learned of through "unlawful access" to her phone, according to the lawsuit.

Saudi officials have denied torturing al-Hathloul and say she received a fair trial. A request for comment to the Saudi and Emirati embassies in Washington was not immediately answered

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher