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UK High Court says Dubai ruler hacked ex-wife Princess Haya's phone

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By AP
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Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum attends the 40th Gulf Cooperation Council Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 10, 2019.
Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum attends the 40th Gulf Cooperation Council Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 10, 2019.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File

Britain's High Court found Wednesday that the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, hacked the phones of his ex-wife Princess Haya and her attorneys during their legal battle over custody of their two children.

Al Maktoum, 72, gave his “express or implied authority” to hack the phones of the princess, 47, and her attorneys using Pegasus spyware produced by the NSO Group of Israel. The software is licensed exclusively to states for the use of their security services.

The hacking came to light partly through the work of William Marczak, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, who has studied government use of spyware. In addition, attorney Cherie Blair, the wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, told Princess Haya’s lawyer, Fiona Shackleton, that she may have been hacked, the court heard.

Cherie Blair, then an NSO adviser, contacted Shackleton to tell her that the software may have been “misused.''

Al Maktoum's lawyers chose not to offer evidence in court to counter the allegation. His lawyers argued that Princess Haya had not proved her case and that he could not confirm or deny whether the UAE had a contract with the NSO Group.

His lawyers suggested that another country, such as Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia or Jordan may have been responsible for the hacking.

Al Maktoum is also the founder of the successful Godolphin horse racing stable and once received a trophy from Queen Elizabeth II after one of his horses won a race at Royal Ascot.

Haya, a graduate of Oxford University, is a keen equestrian and competed in show jumping for Jordan at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She was a two-term president of the International Equestrian Federation and an International Olympic Committee member.