As her aircraft touched down in April 2019, Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, who was accompanied by her two kids, may need hoped she was past the attain of her ex-husband, the emir of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.
Equally, when he commenced custody proceedings within the excessive court docket of justice the next month, she may need imagined that the dispute can be settled in a courtroom, purely on the idea of its authorized deserves.
She didn’t know, nevertheless, it was seemingly cell phone numbers belonging to her, her closest aides, advisers and pals, had been being entered into a pc system operated by brokers of the emirate of Dubai, one of many purchasers of spy ware producer NSO Group.
The cellphone numbers of Haya, and eight of her shut associates, seem in a dataset believed to point individuals of curiosity to a authorities shopper of NSO. That knowledge has been obtained by Forbidden Tales and Amnesty Worldwide, and analysed by media organisations around the globe, together with the Guardian.
The numbers within the leaked information embody these of Haya’s private assistant, senior workers at her non-public safety agency, and even one of many attorneys advising her in her custody dispute with Sheikh Mohammed.
NSO Group says it can not see how its clients, that are all governments, use its military-grade spy ware Pegasus, which is able to secretly infecting a cell phone after which extracting huge quantities of information from it.
It says Pegasus is barely supposed for use to forestall terrorism and severe crime, and that its purchasers signal contracts agreeing to those phrases once they buy a licence.
The corporate believes the dataset examined by the media consortium has “no bearing on the record of the shoppers’ targets of Pegasus, or some other NSO merchandise”, although it mentioned it “could also be half of a bigger record of numbers that may have been utilized by NSO Group clients for different functions” that had been solely authentic.
NSO additionally says it’s legally and contractually prevented from figuring out its authorities purchasers. However a supply aware of the corporate’s operations confirmed that throughout the previous yr it had stripped Dubai of its Pegasus licence. They mentioned the choice had been knowledgeable primarily by human rights issues, however didn’t dispute that the likelihood Sheikh Mohammed was wielding it towards his circle of relatives members had additionally been an element.
Until Dunckel, a German lawyer representing Sheikh Mohammed, informed the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung: “Our shopper emphatically denies having tried to ‘hack’ the telephones of the individuals named in your request, or having instructed others to take action.” John Kelly, one of many sheikh’s British attorneys, echoed the identical denials to the Guardian, however didn’t reply to any particular or detailed questions.
‘I care not whether or not you reside or die’
A lot of what’s recognized in regards to the circumstances wherein Princess Haya left Dubai for London is detailed in a fact-finding public judgment revealed by the excessive court docket final yr.
Her relationship with Sheikh Mohammed, which had been cordial, started to deteriorate following a extremely public and unsuccessful escape try by one other of his kids, Princess Latifa.
Haya, in response to the judgment, started making inquiries about Latifa’s welfare, however subsequently started to expertise a “progressively extra hostile local weather” from the sheikh and his advisers.
Trusted workers members had been dismissed with out her approval, and Haya and her consultant had been ejected from the ruler’s court docket – “an enormous public slap within the face”, she mentioned. She additionally found that Sheikh Mohammed had divorced her beneath sharia regulation on 7 February 2019, the anniversary of her father’s loss of life, with out telling her first.
A number of weeks later, the judgment described how she claimed Sheikh Mohammed phoned her instantly. “I’ve obtained dangerous information about you,” he mentioned, making an ambiguous reference to her relationship with one in all her bodyguards, “I’m beginning to doubt you.” Haya informed the court docket that the decision “terrified” her.
Nameless, threatening notes, and even firearms, had been left in her bed room, she claims. On 11 March 2019, a helicopter landed exterior her home, and a pilot emerged and knowledgeable her that he had come to move a single passenger to Awir, a UAE desert jail. Haya tried to defuse the state of affairs by laughing it off as a joke, whereas one in all her kids clung to her leg in terror, and the pilot finally left. (Sheikh Mohammed informed the court docket the incident was “merely a mistake”.)
Sheikh Mohammed, an beginner poet, additionally revealed verses on-line that seem to consult with Haya. In his February 2019 poem Luck Strikes As soon as he wrote: “My spirit is cured of you, lady. When your face seems, no pleasure I really feel. Don’t say troublemakers are those accountable. It’s your fault, although you’re fairer than the moon …”
Much less ambiguous was You Lived, You Died, which he revealed in June 2019 and admits associated to Haya. “You, traitor, you betrayed essentially the most treasured belief. I uncovered you and your video games …” he wrote. “I’ve the proof that convicts you of what you’ve accomplished … You already know your actions are an insult … Let’s see if mischief brings you advantages, I care not whether or not you reside or die.”
By this stage Haya had resolved that her place was “wholly unsafe and untenable”, and in April 2019 she arrived in England together with her two kids. She claims that the next month Sheikh Mohammed informed her instantly: “You and the kids won’t ever be secure in England.”
The record grows
Shortly earlier than Haya arrived in London, and persevering with into not less than the summer time of 2019, the cellphone numbers of individuals round her started to appear on the database seen by the Pegasus mission.
Amongst them had been Martin Smith, the CEO of Quest, which had for a number of years supplied Haya together with her non-public safety. The agency’s director of investigations was on the record, as was Shimon Cohen, a public relations skilled and a communications adviser to Quest.
John Gosden, a horse racing coach and a pal of Haya, confirmed a quantity within the dataset belonged to him, however declined to remark.
Additionally showing within the record had been cellphone numbers belonging to one in all Haya’s aides, and even a lawyer at a London agency of solicitors advising Haya . The agency declined to remark, however requested the Pegasus mission consortium to not establish the aide or the lawyer.
The investigation by the Pegasus mission suggests the presence of a quantity within the dataset displays that the quantity was of curiosity to an NSO shopper, however it doesn’t reveal whether or not any try to hack the cellphone was carried out. Princess Haya declined to remark.