The UK-based Middle East Eye (MEE) revealed that Saudi Arabia used Pegasus software designed by the Israeli NSO Group to monitor the Tunisian speaker of the Parliament and leader of the Ennahda Movement, Rached Ghannouchi.
“Ghannouchi’s phone number is one of 50,000 numbers found on a list obtained by the Forbidden Stories investigative consortium and Amnesty International, MEE reported.
Customers of the Israeli tech company have reportedly targeted users of these numbers since 2016.
The two organizations mentioned have investigated the victims of the Pegasus software.
Forbidden Stories informed Ghannouchi that his primary phone number was on the list of numbers targeted by Pegasus. The non-profit organization also told MEE that Ghannouchi’s phone was selected for monitoring by a customer in Saudi Arabia in 2019.
The said client, who works with the Israeli firm NSO, also targeted senior officials in Turkey, Qatar, and Lebanon, as well as many opponents of the Saudi monarchy, suggesting that the client in question is a Saudi operator.
Commenting on the case, Ghannouchi told MME, “I am appalled that a sister country is targeting the president of a democratically elected parliament. This is unacceptable and I urge the Tunisian security services to seriously investigate this case.”
Furthermore, the leader of the Ennahda Movement continued, “This is yet another attack on our Parliament and our democratic institutions. Even as the anti-democratic forces try to undermine the demands of our people, Tunisia will continue to be a source of inspiration for all supporters of democracy in our region and around the world.”
MEE has tried to reach out to NSO Group and the Saudi Embassy in London on several occasions to seek their comments on the matter but has so far received no response.
At least 10 governments, including Bahrain, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Hungary, India, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), are claimed to be customers of NSO Group. It was argued that the spyware was sold to governments to target activists, journalists, lawyers, and politicians.
Allegedly, with this spyware, which can turn a phone into a “surveillance” device, access to many applications such as a microphone, camera, messages, voice recordings, and contacts can be provided without the user’s knowledge and consent.
Based in Tel Aviv, the Israeli firm responsible was created in 2010 and has around 500 employees.