Khashoggi’s wife calls for US and UN help to recover her husband’s devices in Turkey

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The widow of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has called on the US government and the United Nations to intervene and help her recover her husband’s electronic devices from the Turkish government so she can take legal action before the statute of limitations expires. later this year, according to letters, documents and other details about their shared efforts with NBC News.

It’s been more than a year since Hanan Elatr Khashoggi first requested the laptop, tablet and two cellphones of the late Washington Post columnist who was assassinated at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in 2018, and now he hopes to increase the pressure on Turkey to comply by enlisting help from Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

The letters, sent in November and January respectively, say she believes the devices «will reveal previously unrevealed details about my husband’s murder that are critical to learning the full truth.»

“I have the right to receive all of his (Jamal Khashoggi) possessions, particularly now that I am embarking on legal action in the United States against all parties responsible for the murder of my husband,” Hanan Elatr Khashoggi wrote in both letters, naming NSO. Group. , an Israeli cyber-intelligence company, and the governments of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates as intended targets of future lawsuits.

She said Turkey recovered the devices shortly after her husband’s death and wrote in her letters that her personal requests to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the phones, laptop and tablet «have not been respected.»

Erdogan’s office and the Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC, did not respond to a request for comment. The Turkish Embassy sent Hanan Elatr Khashoggi’s lawyer a letter in December 2021 suggesting that he send “your request for him to the respective Turkish courts through the appropriate legal channels”.

Hanan Elatr Khashoggi, who is an Emirati, said he cannot take legal action in Turkey because he is in the US under political asylum, does not have a passport and does not have the necessary finances.

Jamal Khashoggi’s devices are «so important and so vital,» he said in an interview, a point emphasized by his lawyer Randa Fahmy, to find out what led to Jamal Khashoggi’s death and hold all responsible parties to account.

Hanan Elatr Khashoggi and Jamal Khashoggi.Courtesy of Hanan Elatr Khashoggi

Hanan Elatr Khashoggi discovered in November 2021 that cyber-intelligence firm NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware had been installed on her two Android phones without her knowledge when she was in the United Arab Emirates months before her husband’s death. That discovery was confirmed by a digital forensic analysis conducted by Citizen Lab, reviewed by NBC News and first reported by The Washington Post. She believes that this same spyware may also be on her husband’s devices.

It was the discovery of the spyware that started the clock on his ability to take legal action. He has two years to present his case from his detection, according to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Law. That window ends in November of this year.

Hanan Elatr Khashoggi maintains that alleged surveillance of the couple by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and NSO Group contributed to Jamal Khashoggi’s death and intends to file three separate lawsuits against them in US courts. She believes that finding similar spyware on her husband’s devices will support her case.

«Not only Saudi Arabia is guilty,» she told NBC News, referring to her husband’s death. «There are many who are guilty, and we have a right to know and bring them to justice.»

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates did not respond to requests for comment. NSO Group has denied any involvement.

“NSO has repeatedly stated that our technology was in no way associated with the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi or any of his family members, including Hanan Elatr,” an NSO Group spokesperson said.

Hanan Elatr Khashoggi’s letter to Haines was emailed to national intelligence director Charles Luftig’s chief of staff on November 2, 2022, and he confirmed receipt of the message a day later, according to emails reviewed. by NBC News. The letter was originally sent to the agency in September, but received no response.

Fahmy, Hanan Elatr Khashoggi’s lawyer, said she happened to meet Haines at the State Department on Nov. 4 at the swearing-in ceremony for the new US ambassador to Morocco, Puneet Talwar. Haines told him that she had read the letter and that she was discussing the request with the Justice Department, according to Fahmy.

“I said, ‘We really need those devices,’” the attorney recalled. “She said, ‘You’re going to get a formal response, but I’ll tell you I’m talking to the Department of Justice if a request like this can be made.’”

Fahmy said he had not heard from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence since November. A spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment. The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.

The letter to the UN Secretary General’s office was sent on January 30. Farhan Aziz Haq, a spokesman for the office, confirmed that it had been received and said that it is «now being studied.»

‘I have to go on and do justice’

The first legal case that Hanan Elatr Khashoggi has said she intends to bring in a US court is against Saudi Arabia with criminal and civil claims for the murder of her husband, despite the Biden administration’s decision that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has sovereign immunity in his role as Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence previously concluded that the crown prince had approved the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist critical of the Saudi government, according to a report by Haines’ office that she declassified in February 2021. The report it also named 18 other people involved in his death.

Hanan Elatr Khashoggi and Fahmy believe they are in a strong position to build a case and target the people named, not just the crown prince. While Fahmy conceded that «there is nothing we can do about the Biden administration’s findings on sovereign immunity,» he believes there are other avenues for the two to explore, noting that «there are exceptions to sovereign immunity» that is willing to try.

The Biden administration has not imposed harsh sanctions on Saudi Arabia over the death of Jamal Khashoggi, although the president has said he will hold the country and its leaders to account for the journalist’s murder. The National Security Council, which had previously met with Hanan Elatr Khashoggi, who disclosed her efforts to recover her husband’s devices at the meeting, did not respond to a request for comment.

Hanan Elatr Khashoggi.
Hanan Elatr Khashoggi.Courtesy of Hanan Elatr Khashoggi

The second case would be directed at the United Arab Emirates, where Hanan Elatr Khashoggi resided and worked as a flight attendant. She believes NSO Group spyware was installed on her devices when she was detained by UAE intelligence agents at Dubai International Airport in April 2018. She gave them her phones and was blindfolded, handcuffed and interrogated. in a separate place about her husband, she said. .

She believes the Emiratis are implicated in Jamal Khashoggi’s death because they may have provided tracking information through an intelligence-sharing agreement the country had with Saudi Arabia.

“They misused this to track Jamal through me,” Hana Elatr Khashoggi said. «They knew how vital that relationship between Jamal and I was because we shared everything.»

Ultimately, he intends to sue NSO Group. She and Fahmy believe that the same spyware could be on Jamal Khashoggi’s phone and that NSO Group was involved in maintaining the software on all of his devices.

The firm is already facing other legal battles, as the Supreme Court allowed Meta to file a lawsuit against NSO Group last month for allegedly installing spyware on its WhatsApp messaging app to monitor numerous people, including journalists and activists, according to documents. judicial. NSO Group has said that it installed the software on behalf of an unidentified foreign government.

Hanan Elatr Khashoggi said that her life has not only changed due to the death of her husband: «my life has ended». But that point of view of hers has kept her dedicated to the case of her husband.

She lost her career as a flight attendant, her social circle in the United States consists of five people, and she is constantly in fear for her life. At her new job in Washington, DC, she earns just enough to pay for a room and eat.

“I am the second victim after Jamal,” said Hanan Elatr Khashoggi. “Jamal, he lost his life and I lost mine too, but I get to talk about him and it gives me courage. I have to go on and do him justice.»

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