TOUGH new punishments for cybercrime that include 10-year prison sentences and fines of up to BD300,000 could be introduced in Bahrain soon.
They are included in a new law, dealing with Internet and technology-related offences.
Under the bill, anyone who accesses computer systems without authorisation faces up to a year in jail or a fine of BD30,000, or both, depending on the nature of the offence. Those who deliberately hacked into networks with the purpose of destroying them or damaging information or data would face up to three years behind bars or a fine of up to BD50,000, or both.
However, the jail term could be up to seven years with a maximum fine of BD300,000 if the offender deliberately disrupts public facilities, such as traffic lights or irrigation systems. The same sentence could be delivered if the actions of an offender threatened people's lives and safety through hacking, if they tampered with medical reports or led to someone's death. Also under the bill, those who used multimedia devices to steal information would face up to three years in jail or a fine of up to BD100,000, or both.
Those who used the Internet or telecom devices to spread information that threatened national security, for terrorism or to damage the reputation of others could get up to three years in jail or a fine of up to BD100,000, or both. If the offender was successful, the jail sentence would be up to five years and the fine up to BD200,000.
Meanwhile, anyone who provided hacking devices or programmes, or helped others get their hands on passwords or entry codes, would face a year in jail or a fine of up to BD100,000, or both. Those who destroyed, deleted, changed or tampered with data in any computer network could be jailed for up to 10 years.
Online embezzlement, theft and blackmail would be punished with up to three years in jail, while anyone producing pornography or broadcasting it would be jailed for up to a year or fined up to BD10,000, or both, depending on the material in question.
Those who possessed pornographic materials would be sentenced for up to three months in jail or fined up to BD3,000, or both. This jail sentence would also double if the material was child related. Under the bill, the Public Prosecution would have the right to cease broadcasts of any information on the Internet, order for it to be removed from public view and enter computerised accounts if necessary to investigate cybercrime.
The bill was originally passed by parliament before being endorsed by the government, which has now referred it back to the National Assembly as a draft bill. Described as the first law of its type in the Arab world, it must now be voted on by MPs and the Shura Council.
However, although parliament originally proposed the legislation there was some debate during its session yesterday on three articles.
MPs voted to refer them to the foreign affairs, defence and national security committee for two weeks for further study.
Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowment Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa, however, said it was unnecessary to delay the law - offering to sit with committee members to revise the articles in question. Parliament chairman Khalifa Al Dhahrani said amendments must be made after proper study in the presence of the minister.