Prison poke: Three years' jail for Facebook UAE 'insult'

Prison poke: Three years' jail for Facebook UAE 'insult'
Palestinian Facebooker also slapped with a $13,600 fine for "insulting the UAE" by a court in Abu Dhabi.
2 min read
12 January, 2016
The judge also ordered the shutdown of the Facebook page [AFP]

A 38-year-old Palestinian has been sentenced to three years in prison after allegedly "insulting the UAE" on social media, according to Emirati website The National.

Mohamed Ashour was found guilty of creating a Facebook page that "damaged the reputation of the country".

Ashour, who pleaded not guilty, was also fined 50,000 Dirhams ($13,600).

During his defence hearing before the Federal Supreme Court in December, Ashour's lawyer Ali Majed said his client did not deliberately seek to damage the country's reputation, nor did he spread information that could be deemed "damaging".

Ashour told the judge that the incident in question was a private interaction with another Facebook user.

"What happened was a conversation between two users," he told the judge.

"I never created a website. It was a personal online page on a social media network."

The judge also ordered the shutdown of the Facebook page.

Ashour will be deported after serving his sentence.

Cybercrime in the UAE

The UAE's cybercrime law 5/2012 criminalises all forms of "electronic abuse".

According to the law, anyone found guilty of a cybercrime could face up to life imprisonment and/or a fine varying between 50,000 Dirhams ($13,600) and three million Drihams ($816,800).

The law can also punish people who use "foul language" on the WhatsApp messaging service with fines of up to $68,000 - and expatriates can expect to be deported.

Last week, two men were detained for seven days after taking "selfies" outside a Dubai hotel while it was on fire.

However, the city's public prosecution decided to release the two young men after a thorough investigation into the photo posted on social media found no evidence of criminal intent.

If convicted, the young men would also have faced three years in jail and a fine of no less than 30,000 Dirhams ($8,000).