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Court says sheikh ordered phones of ex-wife and lawyers hacked


Court says sheikh ordered phones of ex-wife and lawyers hacked
Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, the wife of Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, and her lawyer Baroness Fiona Shackleton. (Reuters file picture)

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LONDON – Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum ordered the phones of his former wife and her lawyers hacked as part of a “sustained campaign of intimidation and threat” during the custody battle over their children, England’s High Court ruled.

Mohammed used the sophisticated “Pegasus” software, developed by Israeli firm NSO for states to counter national security risks, to hack the phones of Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, half-sister of Jordan’s King Abdullah, and some of those closely connected to her, according to the rulings.

Those working for him also tried to buy a mansion next door to Haya’s estate near the British capital, intimidatory action the court ruled that left her feeling hunted, unsafe and like she “cannot breathe anymore”.

The latest rulings come 19 months after the court concluded that Mohammed had abducted two of his daughters, mistreated them and held them against their will.

“The findings represent a total abuse of trust, and indeed an abuse of power to a significant extent,” Judge Andrew McFarlane, president of the family division in England and Wales, said in his ruling.

The sheikh denied the allegations of hacking and his lawyers argued other countries in the Middle East could have been to blame.

Mohammed, 72, and Haya, 47, are involved in a long, bitter, and expensive custody battle since she fled to Britain with their two children, Jalila, 13, and Zayed, 9.

She said she feared for her safety amid suspicions that she had an affair with one of her British bodyguards.