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A British man faces ten years in a United Arab Emirates jail cell after being arrested for hacking into the country's Internet system.

The 26-year-old, a senior computer engineer in Dubai, was picked up last week after he was traced by security staff at Emirates Telecommunications Corp (Etisalat) network, Reuters reports.

Local papers say the man may be charged with damaging the country's economy, and is believed to be the first person in the Middle East to be arrested on suspicion of computer hacking.

He was released on bail the day after his arrest.

Dubai police chief Major General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim has said the suspected hacker could be charged with causing damage to the economy if it is proved he destroyed online information. And Etisalat president and CEO Ali Salim Owais said this week the action could land the offender in prison for a maximum of ten years.

However, according to Dubai Attorney General Ibrahim Bu Melha, there are no specific laws in the city governing computer hacking. "It has become urgent to issue legislation which classifies high technology crimes and stipulates penalties for them," Melha told the Gulf News.

Etisalat, which is 60 per cent owned by the Dubai government and has a monopoly on telecoms and Net services in the country, suspected the Brit is behind certain problems experienced by UAE Web users in the past fortnight. ®

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