Saudi dissident believes Riyadh tapped calls with missing journalist

Turkish officials have said they believe Mr Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate, and lurid claims have been leaked to media that he was tortured and even dismembered.
Turkish officials have said they believe Mr Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate, and lurid claims have been leaked to media that he was tortured and even dismembered.PHOTO: REUTERS

MONTREAL (AFP) - A Saudi dissident in Quebec believes the kingdom hacked his phone and listened to calls he had with Mr Jamal Khashoggi prior to the journalist's disappearance.

Mr Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor and United States permanent resident whose writings have been critical of powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has been missing since entering the country's consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2.

"For sure, they listened to the conversation between me and Jamal and other activists, in Canada, in the States, in Turkey, in Saudi Arabia," Mr Omar Abdulaziz said in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

A report published recently by a University of Toronto lab concluded that Saudi authorities were "very likely" responsible for hacking his phone with powerful spyware sold only to governments.

Mr Abdulaziz said he was working on several projects with Mr Khashoggi in recent months, including a campaign to counter Riyadh's pro-government propaganda on social media.

Mr Khashoggi "promised me to sponsor the project and I guess they could listen in to those conversations", he said.

"His voice was a headache for the Saudi government," said Mr Abdulaziz.

Turkish officials have said they believe Mr Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate, and lurid claims have been leaked to media that he was tortured and even dismembered. However, Saudi Arabia insists he left the building safely.

US President Donald Trump has threatened Saudi Arabia with "severe punishment" if Mr Khashoggi was in fact killed, but Riyadh has vowed to hit back against any punitive measures.