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Israel Court Rejects Amnesty Petition Against Spyware Firm NSO

An Israeli court Monday rejected a bid by rights group Amnesty International to revoke the export license of spyware firm NSO Group over hacking allegations.

NSO has faced multiple accusations of cyber-espionage on human rights activists and others, including by the messaging service WhatsApp, which is suing the company in a US court.

Many of the allegations have centred on the company's Pegasus product, a highly invasive tool that can reportedly switch on a target's cellphone camera and microphone and access data on it, effectively turning the phone into a pocket spy.

Amnesty claimed the technology was used against one of its staffers and petitioned a Tel Aviv court to revoke its defence ministry issued export licence.

Judge Rachel Barkai rejected the petition, claiming there was "no evidence that an attempt has been made to monitor a human rights activist while trying to gain access to his telephone," in a ruling released Monday.

Amnesty's co-director for tech, Danna Ingleton, described the ruling as "disgraceful," and "a cruel blow to people put at risk around the world by NSO Group selling its products to notorious human rights abusers".

The rights group added that NSO's products are helping governments commit rights violations "from Saudi Arabia to Mexico".

Last month, Amnesty alleged that NSO spyware was used against Moroccan journalist Omar Radi, who was convicted in March over a social media post.

Amnesty said that Radi had been "systematically targeted by the Moroccan authorities due to his journalism and activism".

The company declined to comment on any business it conducts in Morocco but said it was "troubled" by the allegations and would look into them.

A Moroccan court gave Radi a four-month suspended sentence for criticising a judge in a tweet.

NSO 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 Israeli hi-tech hub of Herzliya, near Tel Aviv.

It says it employs 600 people in Israel and around the world.

Related: Morocco Rights Advocates Targeted by Spyware: Amnesty

Related: Morocco Asks Amnesty for Proof It Used Spyware on Journalist

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