Accused in WhatsApp insult case may face AED250,000 fine
Prosecution appeals against ‘lenient’ AED3,000 sentence, citing 2012 federal decree on cyber-crimes
A man charged with insulting another using popular messaging service WhatsApp may face up to AED250,000 in fines after the UAE Federal Supreme Court found that a lower court's fine of AED3,000 was too lenient and referred it back for reconsideration.
Two separate courts in Sharjah imposed penalties of considerably less than what is called for in Article 20 of Federal Decree Law no. (5) of 2012, which covers cyber-crimes. The prosecutor in the case appealed because he felt the sentence was too lenient and the Supreme Court agreed.
Article 20 says "whoever insults or accuses another person of a matter of which he shall be subject to punishment or being held in contempt by others [shall receive] imprisonment and a fine not less than two hundred fifty thousand dirhams and not in excess of five hundred thousand dirhams or either of these two penalties".
The story was first reported by UAE-based Arabic-language media, but English translations referred to a "new" or "recently introduced" federal law, although Federal Decree Law no. (5) is three years old.
International press coverage also said expats could be deported for the same offence. However, although deportation is a common supplementary punishment in the UAE for expats convicted of criminal offences, it is at the discretion of the court for offences in Law no. (5), as per Article 42.
Social media users in the UAE have consistently been warned by officials against unguarded comments online. ITP.net previously spoke with legal experts on how to avoid falling foul of the law. Our full report can be read here.