Habibi, don't "bug" me! UAE passes law to punish spying hubbies
Husbands who spy on their wives by bugging their cars or tapping their phones are committing a crime. Marriage does not permit a husband to keep his wife under surveillance without her consent because doing so is a breach of privacy, according to Senior Chief Prosecutor Esmail Madani, Head of the Public Funds Prosecution.
“A husband who taps his wife’s phone or bugs her car without consent is committing a crime that’s punishable by law. Marriage should not be deemed as an alibi for a husband or wife to bug the other party without permission or consent. Husbands or wives will be subject to legal action if they are caught breaching their partner’s privacy. Individuals should be aware that using the telecommunications systems to bug someone without obtaining prior permission from the concerned authorities is a crime,” Madani said yesterday.
His warning came in light of a Dubai Appeal Court’s judgement against a 38-year-old Emirati man, H.A., who was jailed for three months and fined Dh10,000, for secretly installing a tracking and bugging device in the car of his 31-year-old countrywoman E.Y., who he is now divorced. Although H.A. contended that E.Y. was still his wife when he installed the tracking device, Starfinder AV120, in her car the court found him guilty.
Prosecutors charged H.A. with using the device without obtaining permission from the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) and breaching E.Y.’s privacy by eavesdropping on her calls.
Prosecutor Abdul Rahman Nasser, who carried out the investigations, charged a 47-year-old Lebanese manager, R.J., with promoting and selling the tracking device [Starfinder] unlawfully and without the TRA’s permission.
According to the charge sheet, R.J.’s company was listed as a suspect in the case. According to the appeal ruling, R.J. was fined Dh100,000 and his company was also fined Dh100,000.
When the Emirati defendant appeared before the Dubai Misdemeanour Court, he entered an innocent plea contending the bugged car belonged to him and that E.Y. was still his wife at the time.
“I did not know that fixing the device required permission from the TRA,” said R.J.
“The plaintiff claimed during prosecution questioning that she was still the defendant’s wife and she owned the car. She claimed that they had a business relationship that started in December 2009. When she returned from a trip in 2010, according to her statement, the man asked her to have her car windows tinted at a certain shop.
Later she realised that her [then] husband was aware of her whereabouts and the content of her conversations with friends since she took her car to that shop,” Madani said. Court records said the woman took her vehicle to the car dealer but they did not find the tracking device that she suspected H.A. had fitted.
“H.A. had bugged my sister’s car as well. A friend guided us to the company that installs such devices [Starfinder]. The device was fixed under the steering wheel. I went to the company and they told me that they could deactivate the device. I was told that Starfinder is a tracking and tapping device. I was also informed that the person, who asked the company to fix the device, claimed that he was my husband. When I confronted H.A., he said that he did so for my own protection,” E.Y. said.
The Emirati said that he married E.Y. in 2005 and divorced her in May 2011 due to business disputes. “I asked R.J. to fix the device in the car to be able to track it down in case it was stolen. The car was registered in my name when I fixed the device… then I transferred the ownership to my ex-wife because I owed her money,” he added.
The Lebanese defendant told prosecutors: “I work for a company that deals with geographic information systems… I was not aware that fixing the Starfinder device required the TRA’s permission.”
The appeal ruling remains subject to appeal before the Cassation Court within 16 days.
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