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The BBC's Julia Wheeler
"Mr Ashurst says he was openly described as the head of an international gang of hackers"
 real 28k

Sunday, 11 February, 2001, 04:59 GMT
Dubai 'hacker' due in court
Lee Ashurst picured with his lawyer Habib Mulla
Lee Ashurst says he is being made a scapegoat
A British man charged with hacking into the United Arab Emirates' internet system is due in court on Sunday.

Lee Ashurst, a 21-year old computer programmer from Oldham, Greater Manchester, is expected to be tried under a misuse of telecommunications equipment law.

He was first questioned by Dubai police last Summer after the UAE's telecoms company Etisalat accused him of hacking into its internet system causing it to crash for long periods.

But Mr Ashurst's lawyer says his client is being made a scapegoat for the inadequacies of Etisalat - the sole internet service provider (ISP) in the Arab state.

Etisalat logo
Etisalat is the sole internet provider in the UAE
Mr Ashurst says he has told the public prosecution authorities in Dubai that he did hack into Etisalat's computer system but that he did not make any changes or cause disruption to the internet service.

He said he was publicly accused of being the leader of an international gang of hackers and of trying to circumvent a firewall used by the ISP to prevent people accessing pornography and other sites the authorities deemed sensitive.

There is no law against hacking in the UAE but the law against the misuse of telecommunications equipment carries a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a fine of almost 2,000.

The case has been embarrassing for the UAE, especially as Dubai has been trying to position itself as the internet hub of the Middle East.

It has also given ammunition to local critics of the state's monopoly on telecommunications.

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See also:

26 Jun 00 | Middle East
Dubai 'hacker' denies all
25 Jun 00 | Middle East
Dubai 'hacker' charged
21 Jun 00 | Middle East
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