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US court issues summons for MBS and MBZ over hacking of Al Jazeera anchor

Summons follows lawsuit claiming Saudi crown prince and Abu Dhabi crown prince recruited a network of US citizens to attack Ghada Oueiss
In April, a group of photos of Oueiss was leaked on Twitter and social media, allegedly after her phone was hacked.
In April, a group of photos of Oueiss was leaked on Twitter and social media, allegedly after her phone was hacked (Facebook)
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Washington

A federal court in Florida has issued a summons for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan following a lawsuit against the two in an alleged hacking case.

Al Jazeera news anchor Ghada Oueiss, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, posted a photo of the summons order on Saturday. The suit, filed in the US District Court for the southern district of Florida, accuses the two crown princes of masterminding a suspected hack into her phone.

According to the summons, the de-facto leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have until 5 January to respond, otherwise, a US judge would have the option of issuing a default judgment without their input.

Earlier this month, Canadian research organisation Citizen Lab reported that dozens of employees at Al Jazeera, including Oueiss, had their phones hacked with the cyber-attack likely linked to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Al Jazeera anchor files lawsuit against Saudi, UAE rulers over alleged phone hacking
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Oueiss has said the hack led to the leak of her private photos and also resulted in manipulated financial documents being disseminated which claimed that reporters were taking bonus cash payments from the Qatari government.

"Obsessed with maintaining a polished standing, the de facto rulers of the UAE and Saudi regimes are determined to whitewash their public images in the eyes of the American government and its citizens," the lawsuit read.

"One way to accomplish this goal is to eviscerate all critics of their regimes - no matter the veracity of the critics' statements about the regimes."

According to the court filing, the journalist says she was targeted by the hack because of her reporting on human rights violations by both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

The lawsuit claims bin Salman, also known as MBS, and bin Zayed, known as MBZ, recruited a network of US citizens that "worked in concert" to help spread the manipulated photos. 

"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," the filing said.

Litany of lawsuits

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.

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

In addition to naming bin Salman and bin Zayed as defendants, the lawsuit also lists other top officials and entities including bin Salman's former aide Saud al-Qahtani and the Saudi news outlet Al Arabiya.

The legal filing seeks an order from a judge to bar any of the defendants from engaging in this conduct in the future and also seeks compensation greater than $5,000 for the damage caused by the attack.

MBS has faced a litany of lawsuits this year, with ex-intelligence officer Saad al-Jabri filing a suit accusing him of ordering a hit squad to assassinate him, and the fiancee of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi filing a case against the crown prince over the murder of the slain columnist.