Aug 222010
 August 22, 2010  Posted by  Court, Featured News, Non-U.S., Surveillance

Cyrus Farivar reports on a lawsuit that alleges that by providing the Iranian government with the means to surveill cell phone users, Nokia Siemens was responsible for the arrest and torture of dissidents. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. federal court for the Eastern District of Virginia.  Farivar reports:

“These intercepting devices were used in crackdowns of the dissent,” Ali Herischi, the attorney representing the two Iranians, said in an interview with Deutsche Welle. “And it’s exactly what happened to my client. He was in northern Iran in hiding when he used his cell phone, and as soon as he used his cell phone he was located and arrested.”

Issa Saharkhiz, an Iranian reformist journalist and former government official was arrested in July 2010 and has yet to be charged with a crime.

His son, Mehdi Saharkhiz, now lives in New Jersey in the United States. The two of them have sued Nokia Siemens under the Alien Tort Statute.

Read more of the news coverage on Deutsche Welle.  The media coverage of the lawsuit has resulted in a statement on Nokia Siemens’ web site:

We have no quarrel with Isa Saharkhiz and his son; indeed Nokia Siemens Networks condemns human rights violations around the world. But the Saharkhiz lawsuit is brought in the wrong place, against the wrong party, and on the wrong premise.

The Saharkhizes allege brutal treatment by the Government in Iran, but they have not sued that government. Instead, they are seeking to blame Nokia Siemens Networks for the acts of the Iranian authorities by filing a lawsuit in the U.S., a country that has absolutely no connection to the issues they are raising.

Mobile communications are a powerful tool in the promotion of human rights and the rule of law. They have done far more to empower those who fight for democracy than to empower oppressive governments. It is true that all modern mobile communications networks include a lawful interception capability; this capability became a standard feature at the insistence of the United States and European nations. These countries needed the capability for law enforcement reasons that are common throughout the world. It is unrealistic to demand, as the Saharkhiz lawsuit does, that wireless communications systems based on global technology standards be sold without that capability.

Further information about our activities in Iran can be found in our 2009 corporate responsibility report and in the statement given in June to the European Parliament’s sub-committee on human rights.

I’ve uploaded a copy of the complaint in Saharkhiz v. Nokia to this site  (SAHARKHIZ_NOKIA). The complaint alleges, in part:

Defendants had every reason to know and understand that the sophisticated devices they provided the oppressive Iranian government could will be used to inflict such abuses on the people of Iran by their brutal government. Despite this knowledge and understanding, Defendants helped the Iranian government increase its unlawful monitoring of its citizens and inflict said abuses on them.

It also alleges:

Defendants’ conduct also breaches United States law under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act by exceeding their authorization to access and control highly private and potentially damaging information concerning Plaintiffs’ electronic communication, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2510 et seq, by intentionally acquiring and/or intercepting the contents of electronic communications sent by and/or received by Plaintiffs through their use of cell phone and other electronic devices which were part of, and utilized in, Defendants’ electronic communications systems, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2511, and/or manufacturing, distribution intercepting devices in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2512.

Thanks to the reader who sent in this link.

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