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Charges dropped against French company that sold spyware to Egypt

December 15, 2022 at 4:04 pm

This studio photographic illustration shows a smartphone with the website of Israel’s NSO Group which features ‘Pegasus’ spyware, on display in Paris on July 21, 2021 [JOEL SAGET/AFP via Getty Images]

A Paris court yesterday dismissed charges of complicity in torture against a French company and its directors who sold advanced spyware to the Egyptian government.

Nexa Technology and four of its executives were accused in 2021 of selling the Cerebro software to Egypt, which enabled the regime of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to spy on political opponents, possibly torturing and forcibly disappearing them.

However, the Paris Court of Appeal dropped the charges against Chairman Olivier Bohbot and CEO Stephane Salies among others, but did not order the case to be closed, meaning the investigation will continue.

Lawyers for the International Federation for Human Rights called the decision a “major disappointment” but said the “story was far from being over.”

“We will continue to work to cast light on the consequences of the sale by Nexo of the Cerebro system to the Egyptian regime,” they said in a statement.

Nexa is run by former officials of Amesys, another French IT company accused in a separate investigation of selling the Eagle spyware to the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

Accusations of complicity in torture against Amesys were confirmed last November, but charges against former employees of the company were dropped.

The well-known French investigative website, Disclose, had revealed in a previous report that the arms giants Dassault, Thales and Nexa Technology, which are French arms and spyware companies, sold a mass surveillance system to the Egyptian authorities.

The report pointed out that the three technology companies came together in 2014 for a project to monitor the population outside the normal limits, for the benefit of the Egyptian National Security Agency, by installing internet monitoring software called Cerebro and Ercom-Suneris. They also sold a programme for wiretapping and geolocation called Cortex vortex.

The report added that in order to establish his authority in 2013, Al-Sisi relied on two important allies, with France one of his main Western partners. It provided diplomatic, military and commercial support to the Sisi regime.

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