UK spyware used against Bahraini activists — court witness

A Bahraini protester runs away carrying a pressurized fire extinguisher that is used to shot iron arrows towards riot police during clashes following a protest against the arrival of Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix on April 18, 2013.(AFP Photo / Mohammed Al-Shaikh)

UK spy technology was used against British citizen in Bahrain, new evidence filed in a UK high court has claimed. Activists are calling for a judicial review of the UK’s failure to hold firms accountable for sales of spy software to repressive regimes.

The evidence submitted contains a witness statement from
Bahraini activist and writer Ala’a Shehabi, 30. She has both
Bahraini and British citizenship, and is one of the founding
members of Bahrain Watch, an independent research and advocacy
organization set up following a security crackdown in the country
in February 2011.

Shebabi became one of the targets of the FinSpy malware emails,
developed by UK firm Gamma International, the Guardian
reported.

The activist claimed she received four phishing emails from what
appeared to be authentic email accounts after being released after
detention.

According to Shehabi, the FinSpy software allows for
surveillance of emails, social media messaging and Skype calls, and
can retrieve files saved on an infected computer’s hard drive. It
also can remotely operate microphones and cameras on computers and
mobile phones.

“I have real concerns about the Bahraini regime having
effective unfettered access to my computer, reading my emails and
monitoring my calls. Not only is this a gross invasion of my
privacy, I am concerned that it could put in danger from the
Bahraini authorities myself, my family members and other
activists,”
the Guardian quoted Shehabi as saying.

In her witness statement, she claims that the first infected
email was supposedly from Kahil Marzou, the deputy head of
Bahrain’s main opposition party. Other emails purported to have
come from an Al Jazeera journalist.

“It upset me a lot, scared me and made me feel quite
paranoid. I am very concerned that it appears that a product of a
British company,”
she stressed.

The campaign group Privacy International (PI) in November
reported that Gamma International is selling surveillance
technology without a proper license. The technology sold is being
used by 25 countries to spy on activists, who are later targeted by
repressive regimes — a situation that “amounts to criminal
conduct”
on the part of the tech firms, the activist group said
in an 186-page report it sent to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs
(HMRC).

In the spring and summer of 2012, Bahraini activists, including
Shehabi, received emails containing malware. After the University
of Toronto’s CitizenLab investigated the case, it found evidence
connecting the malware to FinSpy.

With this new witness statement, privacy rights groups are
seeking to force the UK government to review exports of
surveillance technology. The activists are pushing for a judicial
review of the government’s apparent failure to investigate whether
the sale of technology to repressive regimes is

This article originally appeared on : RT