Moroccan authorities deny using Israeli spyware to monitor critics
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Moroccan authorities deny using Israeli spyware to monitor critics

Officials reject allegations by Amnesty International after it claimed Rabat used surveillance software from NSO Group to spy on phone of a journalist and human rights activist

Journalist and activist Omar Radi speaks to the media after his hearing at the Casablanca Courthouse, In Casablanca, Morocco, March 5, 2020 (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)
Journalist and activist Omar Radi speaks to the media after his hearing at the Casablanca Courthouse, In Casablanca, Morocco, March 5, 2020 (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)

Moroccan authorities said they “categorically reject” an Amnesty International report claiming the government used surveillance software to spy on the phone of a prominent journalist and human rights activist.

In a report published this week, Amnesty said forensic analysis it carried out on the cellphone of Omar Radi indicated that his communications were monitored from January 2019 using technology developed by Israeli hacker-for-hire company NSO Group.

In a statement released late Friday, Moroccan authorities rejected Amnesty’s “baseless allegations,” saying that the report serves agendas motivated by hostility against Morocco and competitors in the intelligence market.

Amnesty’s local director, Mohamed Sektaoui, was summoned by authorities Friday and asked to provide evidence “as soon as possible,” the statement said.

An Israeli woman uses her phone in front of a building in Herzliya that housed the NSO Group intelligence firm, August 28, 2016. (Jack Guez/AFP/File)

Radi was questioned by police on Thursday on suspicion of receiving funds linked to foreign intelligence services. He dismissed the allegations as “ridiculous.”

Radi was arrested last year after a tweet that defended anti-government protesters. He was subsequently put on trial in March this year, accused of insulting a judge with his tweet that slammed the prison sentences handed down to protest leaders. He received a four-month suspended jail sentence and a $50 fine.

Amnesty has petitioned an Israeli court to revoke NSO’s defense ministry export license due to multiple hacking allegations.

The case is ongoing and Amnesty said earlier this month it expected a judgement “soon.”

NSO is being sued in the United States by messaging service WhatsApp over alleged cyber-espionage on human rights activists and others.

The Israeli firm says it only licenses its software to governments for “fighting crime and terror” and that it investigates credible allegations of misuse.

However, the company has been in the headlines since 2016 when researchers accused it of helping spy on an activist in the United Arab Emirates.

Founded in 2010 by Israelis Shalev Hulio and Omri Lavie, NSO Group is based in the tech hub of Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. It says it employs 600 people in Israel and around the world.

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