Amnesty International will ask for a court order on Thursday to revoke the export license of the Israeli cyber-security company NSO Group, the human rights watchdog said on Tuesday.
Amnesty said on Tuesday that the Defense Ministry petitioned the Tel Aviv District Court last week to dismiss the lawsuit, or if it proceeds, to restrict reporting on national security grounds.
In a statement, the ministry did not comment directly on whether it had sought a dismissal or gag order but said its supervision of defense exports was "subject to constant scrutiny and periodic assessments."
The ministry added that it does not comment on specific licenses.
The Israeli company's cellphone hacking software, Pegasus, has been allegedly linked to political surveillance in Mexico, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.
In October, WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, sued NSO in the U.S. federal court in San Francisco, accusing the company of helping government spies break into the phones of about 1,400 users across four continents.
Targets of the alleged hacking spree included diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials.
NSO has denied the allegations, saying it solely "provides technology to licensed government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to help them fight terrorism and serious crime."
In Amnesty's case, brought by members and supporters of its Israel office, the organization said NSO continues to profit from its spyware being used to commit abuses against activists across the world and the Israeli government has "stood by and watched it happen."
"The best way to stop NSO's powerful spyware products reaching repressive governments is to revoke the company's export license, and that is exactly what this legal case seeks to do," said Danna Ingleton, deputy director of Amnesty Tech.
Amnesty Tech is described on Amnesty International's website as a global collective of advocates, hackers, researchers and technologies challenging "the systematic threat to our rights" by surveillance-based businesses.
Ingleton called for the hearings in Tel Aviv to be conducted in open court, saying the Defense Ministry "must not be allowed to hide behind a veil of secrecy when it comes to human rights abuses".
The ministry in a statement said its licensing assessments took into account various considerations such as "the security clearance of the product and assessment of the country toward which the product will be marketed."
"The issue of protecting human rights is a major factor in the process, as are policy and security considerations," read the statement.
NSO's phone hacking software has already been implicated in a series of human rights abuses across Latin America and the Middle East, including an espionage scandal in Panama and an attempt to spy on an employee of the London-based Amnesty group.
NSO came under particular scrutiny over the allegation that its spyware played a role in the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
NSO, which was purchased by London-based private equity firm Novalpina Capital last year, announced in September it would begin abiding by UN guidelines on human rights abuses.