Activist Sues Twitter For Giving Saudi Spies Access to His Personal Information
By Staff, Agencies
A Saudi human rights activist sued Twitter Inc. for the second time, saying that Saudi spies working at the tech firm hacked his account and accessed his personal information.
Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for the Gulf Affairs [IGA], a think tank in Washington D.C., filed a 39-page civil complaint on Wednesday, accusing the defendants of complicity in Saudi Arabia’s “Twitter spy campaign” and of violation of federal electronic communication protection laws and various others.
Last year, al-Ahmed, who is granted asylum in the US, sued Twitter, saying that two of the company's employees - Ahmad Abouammo and Ali al-Zabarah - hacked his account between 2013 and 2016 and leaked the personal details of his sources to Saudi intelligence.
US prosecutors charged Abouammo and al-Zabarah with spying for a foreign government in July 2020.
In the previous civil suit filed in the Southern District of New York, al-Ahmed sought damages from Twitter, saying that many of those exposed have since been killed or tortured.
One of those killed, al-Ahmed said at that time, was Abdullah al-Hamid, the founder of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, a human-rights group in Saudi Arabia. Al-Hamid died in the country’s custody in April 2020.
Now, al-Ahmed is suing Twitter again in US district court in the Northern District of California.
“I am doing this for the many victims that were lost to Saudi executions and prisons who followed my account,” he said.
Al-Ahmed also said in the lawsuit that his Twitter account was suspended in 2018 without explanation and has yet to be reinstated despite repeated appeals. The lawsuit states that the company has kept al-Ahmed’s Arabic-language account inaccessible so as not to displease the Saudi government.
“While Twitter may wish to play the victim of state-sponsored espionage, Twitter’s conduct in punishing the victims of this intrigue, including Mr. al-Ahmed, tells a far different story: one of ratification, complicity, and/or adoption tailored to appease a neigh beneficial owner and preserve access to a key market, the [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia],” the complaint stated.
Al-Ahmed is seeking reinstatement of his Arabic-language Twitter account and unspecified damages.
His new complaint now brings 13 claims for relief under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Stored Communications Act, and California’s Unfair Competition Law. Additionally, he stated claims for unjust enrichment, breach of contract, and negligent hiring, supervision, and retention, among others.
Twitter has declined to comment.