Lawyer: British Hacker in UAE a 'Scapegoat' for Etisalat's Failings

Published June 23rd, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

The Briton suspected of hacking into and sabotaging the Internet network in the United Arab Emirates has been made a "scapegoat" for the faltering services of the state-run Etisalat telecoms company, his lawyer said Friday. 

"Etisalat is using my client, Lee Ashurst, as a scapegoat for the disruptions in services they are offering. If they continue, we will sue. Ashurst has been wrongly condemned in public," Habib al-Mulla told AFP. 

"Etisalat suffered from network problems for months before these accusations were made," Mulla charged. "And in any case, there is as yet no case to answer as the police have not registered one." 

Ashurst, a 21-year-old computer programmer with a top information technology company in Dubai, had been questioned by Etisalat officials and police, who raided his apartment on June 14 and confiscated his laptop and passport, Mulla said. 

Dubai's police chief warned Thursday that Ashurst could face charges of "damaging the UAE economy" if it was proved he destroyed information in the Internet system, hinting that an example might be made of him to deter other acts of computer piracy. 

But Dubai's attorney general, Ibrahim Bu Melha, however, said there existed no specific laws governing hackers and the closest charge was "illegal use of Etisalat's equipment", which carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison. 

Etisalat, the UAE's only Internet Service Provider (ISP), accused Ashurst of hacking into its system and causing havoc to one of its two servers. 

Etisalat's Internet system, made slower because of its censorship of politically sensitive and pornographic sites, has been paralyzed by major breakdowns over the last three weeks. 

The constant disruptions have fuelled calls for putting an end to the state monopoly on telecommunications at a time when Dubai is building what it has billed as the world's first "Internet City", a duty-free zone due for launch in October - DUBAI (AFP) 

 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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