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Pro-democracy activists launch legal action against British spyware companies

A group of four pro-democracy activists and politicians who have been heavily involved in pursuing democratic and social rights in Bahrain have launched a legal challenge against a group of Anglo-German spyware companies.

Posted on 11 October 2018

The spyware companies are all part of Gamma Group, an international manufacturer of surveillance and monitoring systems with its headquarters in Britain and technical and sales offices in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
The four claimants, represented by Leigh Day, claim that they were targeted by the Government of Bahrain while they were living in or visiting  the UK, using spyware and surveillance equipment provided by Gamma Group.
The four men claim that their electronic devices were  targeted with the malware software known as FinSpy which can infect a device and once infected enables the user to intercept all data from the target's device including Skype calls, email and real time recordings from the devices’ microphone and camera.
Those taking the legal action are:

  • Hasan Mushaima: a leading opposition politician in Bahrain and the secretary-general of the Haq Movement for Liberties and Democracy.
  • Ali Mushaima: a pro-democracy activist who has lived in the United Kingdom since 2006. He is the son of Hasan.
  • Moosa Mohamed: a pro-democracy activist and photojournalist. He has lived in the UK since December 2006.
  • Dr Saeed Shehabi: a British citizen who has resided in the UK since 1971. He was granted refugee status by the British government in 1985 following his exile from Bahrain. He is a leading figure in the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain

The defendants are companies Gamma International UK Ltd, G2 Systems Ltd, FinFisher Labs GmbH and Elaman GmbH and individual Louthean Nelson who is a director and shareholder in the companies.
In their legal case the claimants argue that the defendants are liable as accessories to the breach of tort of misuse of private information by the Government of Bahrain. They argue that the companies sold the spyware to the Bahraini Government during a time when it was well documented that the government was committing human rights violations and that they continued to provide technical support to the government despite being aware that the spyware was being used to target the claimants while they were in the UK.
The claimants wrote to the defendants last week informing them of the claim.
Solicitor Astrid Perry, of Leigh Day, said:

“Human rights defenders all over the world live under the threat of constant surveillance because of the technology produced and sold by companies such as Gamma. This threat of surveillance has the effect of chilling activism and significantly contributes to a climate of repression. This case will hopefully shed light on a very secretive industry and hold to account those who sell spyware to repressive governments.“