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Al Jazeera anchor files lawsuit against Saudi, UAE rulers over alleged phone hacking

The lawsuit was brought against Mohammed bin Salman and Mohammed bin Zayed over alleged operation against Oueiss because of her reporting on Gulf states
Prominent Al Jazeera TV anchor Ghada Oueiss says she was hacked in the operation (Facebook)

Prominent Al Jazeera TV anchor Ghada Oueiss has filed a lawsuit in a United States court against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Mohammed bin Zayed for a hacking and leaking operation she claims sought to undermine her character and media career.

The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in the Southern District of Florida against bin Salman and bin Zayed, along with Saudi and UAE officials and American citizens, accusing them of orchestrating an operation aiming to harm Oueiss's character and journalistic career because of her critical reporting of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi's human rights abuses in the Middle East.

“Ms Oueiss brings this action against all Defendants, domestic and foreign, responsible for the unlawful hacking and dissemination of her personal information worldwide,” the court filing read, according to The Hill.

“Each actor must be held responsible for their unlawful actions and conspiracy against Ms Oueiss, and this lawsuit marks the beginning of a journey toward justice for Ms Oueiss.”

In April, a group of photos of Oueiss was leaked on Twitter and social media, allegedly after her phone was hacked. One of the pictures was doctored to make Oueiss, who was wearing a swimsuit, appear nude.

The lawsuit noted that Oueiss “earned the attention of the Saudi regime” after her reporting of the killing of Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi in his country’s embassy in Istanbul in October 2018. 

The court filing said that the campaign against Oueiss was a “premeditated attack, intended to destroy her reputation, personal life, and career,” and that she was targeted by a UAE and Saudi “joint and coordinated effort."

In July, Oueiss wrote about the hacking and leaking of her private life in the Washington Post.

“This was not the first time that I had been subjected to cyberbullying or a coordinated campaign against me on social media. But this time, it appeared the attackers had hacked my phone,” she wrote.

She said that accounts that tweeted and retweeted photos and abuse against her, almost 40,000 times in a few hours, had “displayed the Saudi flag, a picture of MBS, as the Saudi crown prince is often known, or a photograph of Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed [MBZ].”

Oueiss tweeted on Wednesday saying that MBS and MBZ “believed they were untouchable and could get a free pass for their authoritarian reigns… It is time to remind the crown princes, actions have consequences.”

Sarah Leah Whitson, the former director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch, tweeted that "MBS slammed with one more lawsuit in the US for his crimes against a journalist... GO Ghada! WE ARE WITH YOU."

Lawyers representing Mohammed bin Salman filed a motion on Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit accusing the de facto leader of ordering a "hit squad” to assassinate a former senior intelligence official now living in Canada in 2018.

In January, it was revealed that a WhatsApp message sent from a number used personally by MBS led to the hacking of Jeff Bezos phone in 2018, according to the Guardian.