UAE peeping-Tom prompts calls for stricter laws

Man used hidden camera to take photos of women's crotches

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A lenient jail sentence in a hidden camera case caused outrage in the United Arab Emirates and triggered calls to impose stricter laws on taking pictures of "private body parts."

Dubai police arrested an Egyptian engineer in a shopping mall last month for taking pictures of women with a camera hidden in a shopping basket. The man hid the camera in an envelope in the basket, which he maneuvered under women’s skirt and took pictures of their crotches.

The culprit, who took four videos and 18 pictures, had his camera confiscated and was sentenced Tuesday to four months in jail. He will also be deported from the UAE.

Emiratis lashed out at the UAE law for being too lenient and not enforcing harsh enough penalties on violations of privacy committed electronically.

An internet campaign that emerged around the case called for a longer jail sentence -- no less than 10 years -- as well as hefty fines.

The UAE penal code does not explicitly criminalize hidden camera offences, said Adul-Hamid al-Kamiti, an Emirati lawyer and legal consultant.

"This creates loopholes that allow the offender to get away with his deed," he told AlArabiya.net. "The offender can always say he wasn't the aware the camera was taking pictures."

Kamiti added that the absence of a clear penalty for taking pictures without permission makes hidden camera cases subject to more general laws, likely resulting in verdicts that are too lenient.

In a similar case in 2008, Dubai police arrested an employee at the Ministry of Environment who put a camera the size of a metal coin in the women’s restroom and transmitted photos directly to a receiver he had.

Despite statements by the Dubai police that the pictures were damaged, the incident infuriated Emirati society and husbands threatened their wives who worked at the ministry with divorce.

After the incident, male cleaners were prohibited from entering women's bathrooms.

Kamiti called for drafting a law that criminalizes taking pictures without permission, unless the person photographed is a public figure, that violate personal privacy, and that takes into account new technologies.