When texting with a friend, Jamal Khashoggi didn't hold back in his assessment of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. He called the prince a "beast 'pac man,'" because "the more victims he eats, the more he wants." The friend, a fellow dissident named Omar Abdulaziz who now lives in Canada, showed months of similar texts to CNN, and they went beyond mere insults. The two men were organizing an online movement against the prince on Twitter, and Abdulaziz says the Saudis found out about it by hacking his phone. When he informed Khashoggi of this, the journalist replied, "God help us." Two months later, Khashoggi was killed by Saudi operatives.
"The hacking of my phone played a major role in what happened to Jamal, I am really sorry to say," Abdulaziz tells CNN. "The guilt is killing me." On Sunday, Abdulaziz sued an Israeli surveillance company called the NSO Group for selling software to Saudi Arabia used in the hacking, reports the AP. The company insists that its product is used only by governments to fight terrorism and crime, but dissidents and journalists in other nations, including Qatar and Mexico, say repressive governments are increasingly using it to rein in opposition figures. The software works by sending a link to a victim; once clicked, the person's texts become exposed. (The prince himself sent at least 11 messages to his top security aide in the hours before and after Khashoggi's murder.)