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UK sued over exported surveillance technology

UK-based rights group Privacy International [advocacy website] said Tuesday that it is suing the British government for refusing to divulge information concerning surveillance equipment sold by Gamma International [corporate website]. Gamma International is a software company whose FinFinisher software [official website] has been used in 25 countries including Bahrain. FinFisher is a Trojan horse program that evades anti-virus utilities and monitors the user's keystrokes, data and Skype calls. Privacy International claims HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) [official website] acted unlawfully [press release] by either misinterpreting the law to permit its activity or refusing to release the information without caution to the facts. For months, Privacy International lobbied for an investigation into Gamma International's activity. HMRC has opted not to comment on the suit due to legal reasons. Gamma International has denied selling FinFisher to Bahrain.

Bahrain's use of FinFisher software comes amid international scrutiny against Bahrain regarding its treatment of political prisoners. Last month, a court in Bahrain acquitted [JURIST report] human rights activist Sayed Yousif Al-Muhafda [official Twitter] on charges of spreading false news to harm the country's security on Twitter [media website]. In February, the Bahrain Higher Criminal Court acquitted two police officers in the shooting death of a Shiite protestor during the nation's pro-democracy protests in Manama that began in February 2011. The court concluded that the two police officers fired shots [JURIST report] at Fadhel Matruk but did not intend to kill him. In December, Bahrain's High Criminal Court of Appeals commuted death sentences [JURIST report] for two protestors, instead sentencing them to life imprisonment.

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