Saudi Rights Activist Sues US Hackers-for-Hire Over Jailing, Torture
Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul, Aug. 27, 2017. (Emna Mizouni/Creative Commons)

Saudi Rights Activist Sues US Hackers-for-Hire Over Jailing, Torture

Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul is suing former US intelligence contractors Marc Baier, Ryan Adams and Daniel Gericke, as well as the Emirati cybersecurity company DarkMatter, for allegedly helping the United Arab Emirates hack her cellphone, which, she charges, led to her 2018 arrest, imprisonment, and torture in a Saudi jail.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of al-Hathloul in a US federal court, said in a statement, “Companies that peddle their surveillance software and services to oppressive governments must be held accountable for the resulting human rights abuses.”

Al-Hathloul, who led a campaign to allow women to drive in Saudi Arabia, was arrested by Emirati security services in March 2018, extradited to Saudi Arabia, imprisoned, held in solitary confinement, and, rights organizations say, and subjected to torture, including electric shocks, flogging, waterboarding and sexual assault. Saudi officials deny that she was tortured. Though women were granted the right to drive in Saudi Arabia in June 2018, al-Hathloul remained in custody and, in December 2020 was sentenced to almost six years in prison on terrorism charges. In February 2021, after being held for nearly three years, she was released from prison.

“No government or individual should tolerate the misuse of spy malware to deter human rights or endanger the voice of the human conscious,” al-Hathloul said in a statement. “… I hope this case inspires others to confront all sorts of cybercrimes while creating a safer space for all of us to grow, share, and learn from one another without the threat of power abuses.”

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