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Bahrain: UK-based activists take kingdom to court over spying allegations

Dissidents Saeed Shehabi and Moosa Mohammed accuse Bahrain in legal claim of using FinSpy software to target their personal computers
The two activists, now in the UK, say the kingdom targeted their computers months after the 2011 uprisings started (AFP)

Two Bahraini dissidents who accuse the Gulf kingdom of using spyware to surveil them will ask London’s High Court this week to allow their case to go ahead in the United Kingdom.

Saeed Shehabi and Moosa Mohammed, political activists living in the UK, allege that their computers were infected with FinSpy in September 2011, seven months after anti-government protests started in the island nation.

The software, produced by UK-German company Gamma Group, can conduct live surveillance through a computer’s camera and microphone and access documents, emails and messages.

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Shehabi and Mohammed used the computers to get photos and videos documenting attacks on Bahraini citizens out of the country.

They also used them to communicate with other activists, journalists, political prisoners, torture victims and their families and lawyers, London firm Leigh Day has said.

But they only realised they had been spied on three years later, after Wikileaks released a target list in relation to the Kingdom of Bahrain’s use of FinSpy, the lawyers said.

Shehabi, 67, a journalist and leading figure in Bahrain’s opposition movement, said the lawsuit, scheduled to be heard by the court on Tuesday and Wednesday, is an important one.

“We want to show that harassing people in this way is happening by states and it is not on. It is intrusive and should not be allowed,” said Shehabi.

“Who knows if we will win but it is important to show everyone that it is happening and we can do something about it.”

According to Leigh Day, the Kingdom of Bahrain has claimed it has state immunity, but Shehabi and Mohammed contend that the alleged harassment and personal injury was “caused by acts or omissions” in the UK. 

“Foreign governments should not be able to hide behind state immunity when they are accused of causing serious harm to those living in the UK,” said Ida Aduwa, a solicitor at Leigh Day, involved in the case.

“We hope the court will dismiss the Kingdom of Bahrain’s arguments so we can proceed to a trial on the issues of the case.”

Middle East Eye asked Bahrain’s UK embassy and Gamma Group to comment for this story but did not hear back by the time of publication.

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