Netanyahu trial troubled by reports of spyware used on key witness

Amnon Lord, columnist for the pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom, called for the trial to be dismissed.

The witness whose phone was allegedly hacked, Shlomo Filber, is expected to testify in the coming days and Netanyahu’s lawyers are expected to request a postponement of his testimony. It remains unclear whether any of the evidence allegedly collected was used against Netanyahu.

Police, as well as a lawyer for Netanyahu, did not respond to a request for comment. Israel’s Justice Ministry declined to comment. State prosecutors told Netanyahu’s attorneys they were “thoroughly reviewing” the reports, according to internal communications seen by The Associated Press.

The report comes after the Israeli newspaper Calcalist reported that Israeli police tracked targets without proper authorization. Last week, the Israel National Police said it found evidence of improper use of spyware by its own investigators to spy on the phones of Israeli citizens. The revelations shocked Israelis and drew condemnation from across the political spectrum.

Authorities did not specify which spyware could have been used inappropriately.

But the Calcalist report said at least some of the cases involved the Israeli company NSO.

NSO is Israel’s best-known offensive cyberware maker, but it’s far from the only one. Its flagship product, Pegasus, allows operators to seamlessly infiltrate a target’s mobile phone and gain access to device content, including messages and contacts, as well as location history.

NSO has come under increasing scrutiny from Pegasus, which has been linked to spying on human rights activists, journalists and politicians around the world in countries like Arabia Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

NSO claims that all of its sales are approved by the Israeli Defense Ministry. These sales are said to have played a key role in the development of Israel’s relations with the Arab states of the Gulf.

Aluf Benn, editor of the Haaretz daily, said it was a surprising twist that Netanyahu is now portraying himself as a victim.

“How ironic: the man who leveraged Pegasus for foreign policy gains now believes he lost his national power to spyware,” he wrote.


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