An Israeli software company calls the allegation that its spyware played a part in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi “unfounded.”
A fellow Saudi dissident and Khashoggi friend living in exile in Canada — Omar Abdelaziz — is suing NSO Group, alleging the Saudi government used NSO’s Pegasus spyware to track his and Khashoggi’s movements and communications.
The two dissidents had been working on a pro-opposition project targeting the Saudi government and calling for democracy in the kingdom.
Abdulaziz says Saudi authorities used Pegasus to track their communications and believes it was a “crucial factor” in the decision to kill Khashoggi.
NSO Group calls the lawsuit unfounded and says there is no evidence its software was used in connection with the killing.
“Our products are licensed for the sole use of providing governments and law enforcement agencies the ability to fight terrorism and crime in the modern age,” a company statement read Monday. “We take an extremely scrupulous approach to the licensing of our products, which are only provided after a full vetting and licensing by the Israeli government.”
Several news agencies report the Saudi government bought Pegasus from NSO last year for about $55 million.
The human rights group Amnesty International has been trying to suspend NSO’s export license, alleging that “human rights-violating regimes” use Pegasus to spy on the opposition and on Amnesty staff themselves.
Khashoggi was a dissident Saudi journalist who wrote for The Washington Post newspaper. He was tortured and killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October. His remains have not been found.
U.S. intelligence says Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who Khashoggi once called a “beast,” ordered the killing.
Saudi officials admit Khashoggi was killed inside its consulate, but said the prince had nothing to do with it.