Jerusalem24 – The Paris Prosecutor has opened a judicial investigation into the cyber-targeting of French-Palestinian lawyer and activist Salah Hammouri by Israeli cyber intelligence company NSO Group, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) announced in a press release on Monday.
37-year-old Hammouri is a Palestinian-French Jerusalemite and lawyer with Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association. He is currently being held in Israeli administrative detention without charge or trial.
According to the Justice for Salah campaign that advocates for his release, Hammouri has been the subject of harassment from the Israeli authorities since he was 15 years old. He has “faced several travel bans, exorbitant bail and fines, house arrests, separation from his family, surveillance and spyware attack, and the illegal revocation of his permanent Jerusalem residency under threat of forcible deportation on 18 October 2021.”
A digital forensic investigation by Front Line Defenders discovered in November 2021 that Hammouri’s phone, along with five other human rights defenders’, had been infected with Pegasus spyware, a product of the NSO Group.
NSO Group is a private Israeli cyber company with a record of human rights violations, brought into existence by “the militarized nature of Israel’s hi-tech sector,” according to the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. “An investigation by Citizen Lab revealed that NSO Group spying technology was allegedly used in at least six countries with a history of tracking human rights activists: Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates… It has been reported that the company also provided the Saudi government with the spyware to spy on the journalist Jamal Khashoggi before his murder.” According to documents obtained by Motherboard, NSO Group also tried to sell its products to US police.
FIDH, along with the French Ligue des droits de l’Homme (LDH) and Hammouri himself, filed a joint complaint in France in April 2022 against NSO Group Technologies. FIDH, LDH and Hammouri received confirmation last week that the Paris Prosecutor was opening an investigation into the Israeli spyware company.
In the FIDH press release, Emmanuel Daoud, Clémence Bectarte, and Patrick Baudouin, who filed the complaint in April 2022 on behalf of FIDH, LDH, and Salah Hammouri, praised the decision of the Paris Prosecutor. “We commend this prompt reaction from the Paris Prosecutor and hope that this judicial investigation, led by an independent investigative judge, will shed light on the NSO Group’s illegitimate use of technologies in violation of human rights laws and French criminal law.”