By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – Jeff Bezos tweeted a tribute to slain columnist Jamal Khashoggi Wednesday after reports indicated that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman personally hacked the Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner’s phone.
Bezos tweeted "#Jamal" accompanied by a photo of himself at a memorial to Khashoggi, who was assassinated in October 2018 by Saudi agents at the Kingdom's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
The hack, which reportedly occurred in May 2018, involved an account apparently owned by bin Salman sending Bezos a video over the WhatsApp messaging service which was loaded with spyware in a bid to extract files, according to reports from the Guardian, the Financial Times and the Daily Beast.
A report from the National Enquirer brought to light last year an extramarital affair Bezos was having with a television anchor using in part Bezos' photos and texts. It is unclear if the hack is related to the reporting.
UN rapporteurs said Wednesday their initial findings indicate that bin Salman was involved in the effort to hack Bezos' phone in an attempt to quash The Washington Post's reporting on Saudi Arabia.
"The information we have received suggests the possible involvement of the crown prince in surveillance of Mr. Bezos, in an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post's reporting on Saudi Arabia,” Agnes Callamard, special rapporteur on summary executions and extrajudicial killings, and David Kaye, special rapporteur on freedom of expression, said in a joint statement.
"The alleged hacking of Mr. Bezos's phone, and those of others, demands immediate investigation by U.S. and other relevant authorities, including investigation of the continuous, multi-year, direct and personal involvement of the Crown Prince in efforts to target perceived opponents," the UN rapporteurs urged.
Khashoggi wrote for the Post as a columnist before his untimely death.
Hours after the scandal broke, Saudi Arabia's U.S. embassy responded on Twitter, calling the allegations "absurd".
"We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out," the embassy added.
Saudi officials turned to the same pattern after Khashoggi's killing: an immediate denial followed by calls for an investigation.
Riyadh acknowledges its agents killed Khashoggi but blames it on a botched rendition operation that was executed without bin Salman's consent, an explanation scoffed at by critics who doubt the killing could have been conducted without the consent of bin Salman, the Kingdom's de facto ruler.
The CIA determined with confidence that bin Salman directed Khashoggi's murder.