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NA passes law to punish e-crimes – 10-year jail for setting up website for terror group

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KUWAIT: The National Assembly yesterday passed a law to combat electronic crimes, stipulating a jail term of up to 10 years for providing online assistance to terror groups and for money laundering.

The legislation, supported in the first vote by 28 MPs and opposed by eight while two members abstained, tackles all crimes related to online activity and cyber space - including social media and others. The second and final vote is due to be held on June 16 as some MPs said they will present amendments.

The lowest penalty under the law is a six-month jail term and a fine of up to KD2,000 for those who illegally use computers that belong to others. The penalty increases if the misuse involves damaging or altering data or information stored in the computer. But the main penalty is a jail sentence for up to 10 years and a fine ranging between KD20,000 and KD50,000 for those who set up a website for terror groups or publish news about them that could be used for raising donations.

The same penalty applies to money laundering and to those who publish methods for manufacturing explosives or any other device for terrorists. Justice Minister Yacoub Al-Sane said similar laws are applied in many European countries and the legislation is needed to fill a legislative vacuum dealing specifically with such crimes. MPs however were divided on the law - though eventually the majority voted for it.

MP Youssef Al-Zalzalah said the law is needed to curb those who instigate dissent and sow social and sectarian discords in Kuwait especially at this time when regional tensions are rising. MP Mohammad Al-Jabri said a majority of civilized nations and neighboring countries have already enacted such laws and Kuwait needs the law to regulate online services, especially that a large number of problems arise from tweeting. “We are not against freedoms but against the misuse of social media” Jabri said. MP Abdulhameed Dashti said he is a big Twitter user and has more than 120,000 followers but there are some people who want to create social and sectarian tensions in the country using the Internet. Accordingly, the law is needed to protect national interests, he said.

But MP Jamal Al-Omar harshly criticized the law saying it includes very dangerous penalties. “With respect to the justice minister, I think if this law is passed, most Kuwaitis will be in jail. People get five years in jail for just one or two tweets” Omar said. He said he does not believe that similar laws exist in Europe, adding that a special court should be created to try people after passing the law. “In some parts of the law, poison was mixed with honey and I challenge the minister to show us European legislation similar to this law” he said.

Shiite MP Saleh Ashour lashed out at the law saying it is extremely dangerous. He also charged that Kuwait is not a true democratic country because people are sent to jail for 10 years over a political opinion or for speaking against a sacred figure. “Give a European country where a person is sent to prison for 10 years for speaking against the head of state or the prime minister ...Under this law, no one will be able to open his mouth without being sent to jail” he said.

Ashour said that opinion cases must not be penalized with jail term and fines should suffice. Speaker Marzouk Al- Ghanem however disputed Ashour and insisted that Kuwait is a democratic country that applies he rule of the law. MP Nabeel Al-Fadhl said there are no political prisoners in Kuwait because people in jail were sent there after trials in court. After the session, liberal MP Rakan Al-Nasef said he will submit several amendments to the law before the second reading. The National Assembly also agreed to debate draft legislation on domestic helpers in next session


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