Riyadh 'planned to spy on Khashoggi's fiancee in UK'

Riyadh 'planned to spy on Khashoggi's fiancee in UK'
Riyadh 'planned to spy on Khashoggi's fiancee in UK'

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - US intelligence authorities warned their British counterparts last year to keep an eye on the fiance of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi after becoming aware of a plan by Riyadh to spy on her while in the UK.

Western intelligence sources told The Guardian that the United States believed Saudi Arabia intended to monitor Hatice Cengiz in London last May, some seven months after the brutal murder of her fiance in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. 

Khashoggi, a self-exiled former regime insider living in the US at the time, had gone to the Istanbul consulate in October 2018 to collect documents necessary to go forward with his marriage.

Cengiz had been waiting outside the Saudi consulate that day, and it was her that rang the alarm when her fiance never re-appeared.

It is not clear whether the alleged surveillance of Cengiz was electronic or physical, or if it was successful.

The Washington Post has also reported claims that both Cengiz and one of Khashoggi's son were "under Saudi surveillance" while in London last year.

Alleged spying on figures close to Khashoggi and the continued presence in Riyadh of Saud al-Qahtani - the right-hand man to the Saudi crown prince who reportedly oversaw the journalist's killing -  were concerns that caused the US State Department to reject a proposal to train the Saudi intelligence services, the Post reported.

News of Cengiz's alleged surveillance by Riyadh comes as Saudi Arabia's foreign intelligence operations come under particular scrutiny.

Earlier this week, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos accused Saudi Arabia of hacking his phone in November 2018, just a month after the killing of Khashoggi.

Bezos' phone was allegedly hacked by way of an image to sent to him by a WhatsApp account used by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, possibly using spyware acquired from Israeli company NSO Group. The United Nations has called for an official investigation into the claims.

While Riyadh has denied the claims, it has previously been accused of involvement in the hacking of dissidents' phones using NSO's Pegasus spyware.

Among them is prominent Saudi satirist Ghanem al-Dosari, who a UK court earlier this week gave the green light to sue the kingdom for allegedly infiltrating his phone, as well as for a 2018 physical attack he believes was directed by Riyadh.

Canada-based Saudi regime critic Omar Abdulaziz has also accused Riyadh of hacking his phone using the Pegasus spyware, a move he says allowed the regime to view his conversations with Khashoggi and may have even facilitated the journalist's murder.

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