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Israeli court dismisses Amnesty's petition against spyware firm NSO


JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli court has dismissed Amnesty International's legal bid to stop NSO Group from exporting surveillance software, saying the rights organization did not prove NSO's technology had been used to spy on its members.

Amnesty alleged that governments around the world have used the Israeli company's cellphone-hacking software, Pegasus, to crack down on activists, and petitioned to get NSO's export license revoked.

A Tel Aviv District Court judge, however, found Amnesty did not present evidence to back up the claim that there had been an attempt to spy by hacking a human rights activist's phone, nor that such an attempt had been carried out by NSO, according to a court document.

The judge also ruled that Israel's Defence Ministry has enough safeguards in place to protect human rights in its export licensing process.

Amnesty's Israel branch said a "mountain of evidence was ignored" and called the court "a rubber stamp to the Defence Ministry's impunity to human rights violations".

A study by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab has linked NSO technology to political surveillance in Mexico, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Targets of the alleged hacking spree included diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials.

NSO, whose customers include law enforcement and governments around the world, has denied the allegations. After the court decision it said it will "continue to supply technology to countries and intelligence agencies that is meant to save lives."

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by William Maclean/Mark Heinrich)

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