Saudi activist says hacked messages could offer new clues in Khashoggi killing

A man holds a photo of Jamal Khashoggi.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Exiled Saudi activist Omar Abdulaziz has shared more than 400 WhatsApp messages he exchanged with Jamal Khashoggi, showing that the slain journalist was privately highly critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, CNN reports.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, was killed in October inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and the CIA has reportedly concluded that the crown prince ordered his murder. From October 2017 to August 2018, Khashoggi and Abdulaziz, now based in Montreal, sent each other text, video, and photo messages almost every day. Abdulaziz told CNN they were planning to start an online youth movement to debunk Saudi state propaganda and inspire activists inside the kingdom. "We have no parliament, we just have Twitter," he said.

Khashoggi and Abdulaziz discussed how to get untraceable SIM cards to dissidents inside Saudi Arabia and ways to get monetary donations. In August, Abdulaziz was tipped off that their messages were intercepted by the Saudi government, he told CNN. This occurred just three months after Abdulaziz was asked to meet with two Saudi government officials, who told him bin Salman wanted to offer him a job. They said he needed to go to the Saudi embassy to get paperwork, but Khashoggi told him "not to go and to only meet them in public places," Abdulaziz said.

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In November, researchers from the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab told Abdulaziz his phone was hacked by spyware created by the Israeli firm NSO Group, at the direction of the Saudi regime. On Sunday, Abdulaziz filed a lawsuit against the Israeli company, arguing that they broke international laws by selling to a government known for human rights abuses. "The hacking of my phone played a major role in what happened to Jamal, I am really sorry to say," Abdulaziz told CNN. "The guilt is killing me."

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