Saudi Arabia sets jail penalties for cybercrimes

RIYADH Mon Mar 26, 2007 2:52pm EDT

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RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia said on Monday it will impose 1-year prison sentences and fines of 500,000 riyals ($133,000) for Internet hacking and misuse of mobile telephone cameras, such as taking unauthorized pictures.

The cabinet said in a statement it approved a bill on information technology crimes proposed last year by the kingdom's quasi-parliament, the advisory Shura assembly.

The measure is to go to the king for ratification.

The bill would penalize "illegal entry into an Internet site or entering a site in order to change its design, destroy it or amend it", it said in a statement published by state media.

It also defines as a crime "infringing upon private lives through misuse of mobile telephones equipped with cameras and similar devices with the purpose of defaming or harming people".

Camera phones have been opposed by religious police in conservative Saudi Arabia, which imposes a strict form of Islamic law. The country banned the sale of the devices for several months in 2004.

But the restrictions have failed to stop the spread of the latest technological fashions in a country of 24 million with high per capita income and a burgeoning youth population.

The state strictly controls the use of the Internet by tracking users and blocking sexual and some political content. Some Internet forums used by liberal reformers and Islamist extremists have been stopped.

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