موقع إخباري يهتم بفضائح و انتهاكات دولة الامارات

EmiratesGate: UAE Mercenaries under Official Investigation in Switzerland

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The authorities in Switzerland have opened an official investigation against a Swiss intelligence company known as (Alp Services), which is based in Geneva, on the grounds of its spying for the UAE in the context of the EmiratesGate documents case.

Anwar Al-Gharbi, a Swiss human rights advocate with Tunisian roots, revealed that the Swiss Public Prosecutor’s Office recently initiated a criminal inquiry into Alp Services, a move hailed as a significant development in this critical case.

Al-Gharbi emphasized the gravity of the operation, stating, “This is an extremely perilous undertaking. It encompassed around 1,000 individuals and 400 groups and entities, comprising politicians, scholars, researchers, lawmakers, journalists, human rights advocates, and supporters of Palestinian rights and humanitarian causes, aiming to silence and intimidate them.” He noted that he was among those targeted in this endeavor.

Al-Gharbi highlighted that “the individuals targeted faced numerous challenges and hardships. Some lost their employment, while others encountered difficulties such as bank account closures, airport restrictions, and unfounded attempts to associate them with terrorism, tarnishing their reputation in the media. Furthermore, many experienced family, health, and psychological issues as a result.”

He emphasized, “The espionage scandal extends beyond Switzerland, encompassing additional cases and figures in France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and elsewhere.” He added, “It’s the first instance where we, who have been advocating for victims for years, find ourselves subjected to such treacherous and malicious actions.”

Al-Gharbi emphasized that “the gravest concern lies in a Swiss company surveilling and monitoring Swiss citizens’ activities on behalf of a foreign nation.” He added, “This marks the first occurrence of such actions in the country’s history.”

He went on to say, “Several victims have chosen to collaborate, pooling their efforts to approach various courts. Presently, two cases are pending in Swiss courts, with others in progress in Belgium, France, and elsewhere, aiming to pursue legal action against this criminal behavior.” He stressed, “We cannot stay silent, and as victims, our only recourse is to seek justice to secure our complete and unimpaired rights.”

Recently, a gathering of human rights advocates, scholars, and European residents convened for a symposium at the European Union headquarters in Brussels. They aimed to condemn the surveillance actions conducted by Alp Services against numerous European citizens, allegedly with backing from the UAE, as stated by attendees.

The participants in the symposium called on the Emirates and Alp Services to apologize and rehabilitate immediately and hold those responsible accountable.

The victims stated that they will hold “a new symposium during the month of May in the corridors of the United Nations to obtain international support to hold accountable the UAE, which spied on the nationals of another country and caused us direct harm.”

Last month, European activists launched a movement, the first of its kind, from the capital of Belgium and the European Union, Brussels, to hold the UAE accountable for espionage violations against European activists, human rights activists, and academics.

During a symposium convened at the European Union headquarters in Brussels, they disclosed the initiation of a campaign geared towards rallying global support to present espionage infractions to the United Nations in the upcoming month. Their objective is to demand accountability from Abu Dhabi, which conducted surveillance on citizens of foreign nations, resulting in direct harm to them.

During the symposium titled “Cybersecurity and Human Rights: Unveiling Abu Dhabi’s Influence and Secrets,” hosted at the Press Club headquarters in Brussels, the victims recounted the challenging situations they faced. They described the closure of their bank accounts, job dismissals, and harassment encountered at airports. Additionally, they spoke of attempts to falsely associate them with terrorism and tarnish their reputation through media character assassination.

During the symposium, presenters disclosed the actions of a Swiss intelligence firm known as “Alps Service,” which received direct backing from Abu Dhabi, in surveilling numerous European citizens engaged in advocating for the Palestinian cause, as well as humanitarian and relief efforts.

The symposium featured the presence of French scholar Jean Michel, Swiss academic Bates Bakke, Dr. Fahd Al-Botros, a criminology expert from the University of Manchester in the UK, Dr. Susan Migo from a Spanish university, and Professor Aya Youssef from the University of Geneva.

Abu Dhabi has formed partnerships with radical right-wing factions in Western nations, along with intelligence firms and authors critical of political Islam, to tarnish Islam’s reputation and fuel anti-Islamic sentiments and opposition to political Islam in the Western world.

The symposium delved into civil rights issues within the UAE, emphasizing how the Anti-Rumor and Cybercrime Law is used to target individuals such as human rights defenders, journalists, and activists who publish information divergent from the political interests of the UAE and its rulers. This results in a narrowing space for civil society within the country.

The symposium was based on a new warning issued by the United Nations, calling for taking quick and effective measures to protect private life and address these violations.

At the symposium, multiple discussions were critiquing the criminal defamation provisions found in the Penal Code, the 2012 Cybercrimes Law, and the 2014 Anti-Terrorism Law, as they impose trials that fall short of international human rights standards. United Nations bodies have recommended that countries decriminalize defamation, integrating it into civil law instead.

Speakers at the symposium highlighted that the UAE has used new technologies, such as the secret use of spyware, to find new ways to harass and limit the right to privacy.

Many civil society organizations stressed that the UAE was among the ten governments involved in the use of the notorious Israeli spyware “Pegasus”, with more than 10,000 people involved in the UAE and abroad, including journalists, human rights defenders, and government critics affected by the spyware.

Tools like Pegasus can turn most smartphones into 24-hour surveillance devices, enabling not only everything found on cell phones but also weaponizing them to spy on the user.

In October 2020, the British Supreme Court disclosed that Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE’s Vice President and Prime Minister, instructed the hacking of six phones belonging to his former wife, Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, as well as his security personnel.

According to the director of Business France in the UAE, spending on investing heavily in technology is expected to reach $23 billion in 2024, with an annual growth rate of 8% during the period 2019-2024.

Speakers at the symposium noted that Abu Dhabi’s recent move to normalize relations with Tel Aviv enables it to enhance its ties with Israeli firms like Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

This information reveals confidential documents obtained from the “Abu Dhabi Secrets” expose, which were obtained by Mediapart and shared with the European Investigative Cooperation (EIC) Consortium, including RTS, in cooperation with Heidi.News and RSI.

Abu Dhabi Secrets reveals how an intelligence company called Alp Services, which works in the field of private intelligence, was contracted to spy on thousands of Europeans.

Alp Services has sent the UAE intelligence services the names of more than 1,000 individuals and 400 organizations in 18 European countries, who have been classified as enemies of the UAE.

This espionage mission received approval from Agent Mohammed and his superior, Sheikh Ali Saeed Al Neyadi, a high-ranking member of Abu Dhabi’s authority. Its objective was to target two major adversaries of Abu Dhabi: Qatar, its political and economic competitor, and the Muslim Brotherhood, perceived by the emirate as a threat to its regime, both politically and as a recognized terrorist group.

In a leaked email, Alp Services assured their client Mohamed through a PowerPoint presentation of their commitment to “inflict significant damage on the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe by exposing their network and key figures, mounting media attacks, and influencing policymakers,” the communication stated. It further mentioned, “We will launch high-risk and secret online campaigns.”

In another letter in August 2017, a company representative told the Emiratis, “We will seek to discredit our targets by spreading misleading information that discredits them in a way that appears logical and truthful.”

The “Arnica” operation commenced in the summer of 2017, initially spanning six months, which was later extended for an additional six months. Subsequent operations named “Kino,” “Daffodils,” and “Saffron” followed. Invoices and internal documents from 2017 to 2020 uncovered that Alp Services had been allocated over 5 million francs from its Emirati clients to execute these assignments.

The personnel at the Geneva-based company extensively gather information on lawyers, human rights advocates, business figures, researchers, and also on humanitarian or charitable organizations and non-governmental bodies, with a significant proportion being Muslim individuals.