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Saudi Arabia: Cyber-Crime Conviction

(Mar. 19, 2015) The Criminal Court of Qatif in Saudi Arabia recently convicted a 32-year-old woman on charges of defaming another Saudi citizen on the WhatsApp private messaging service and sentenced her to two months’ imprisonment, 70 lashes, and a fine of 20,000 riyals (about US$5,334). (Qatif: Imprisonment, Lashing, and Fine for a Woman in Her Thirties for Defaming a Citizen on the “WhatsApp,” AKHBAAR24.COM (Mar. 16, 2015) (in Arabic).)

The victim filed a complaint with the police accusing the defendant of defamation and libel following an earlier dispute between them. Sources confirmed that the court issued the ruling in accordance with the provisions of the Anti-Cyber Crime Law. (Id.)

Saudi Arabia enacted the Anti-Cyber Crime Law by Royal Decree No. M/17 of March 26, 2007. Under article 3 (5) of this Law, defamation and infliction of damage upon others through the use of various information technology devices are punishable by imprisonment for a period not to exceed one year and/or a fine not to exceed 500,000 riyals (about US$133,400). It is not clear, however, on what legal basis the court imposed the lashing punishment in addition to the punishments provided for in the Anti-Cyber Crime Law. (Anti-Cyber Crime Law (8 Rabi1, 1428 / Mar. 26, 2007), Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission website (in English translation).)