What Laws Are For?

Although I have previously complained about the vagueness of some articles in Saudi Arabia’s newly implemented E-Crimes Act, my conviction was that having a flawed law that could be rectified later is better that not having a law at all. Today, Arab News runs this story about a man from my hometown of Ahsa who has been prosecuted according to the new law.

A court in the Eastern Province city fined the man SR50,000, sentenced him to 22 months in jail and 200 lashes for breaking into an e-mail account of a young woman and getting personal photos of her. The man was found guilty of blackmailing the woman by threatening to disseminate her pictures online and to her parents if she did not agree to have an affair with him.

However, there is something here that I don’t understand. I have read the E-Crimes Act and I can’t find any mention of lashing as a punishment for committing any of the violations there. Under the new law, people found guilty of using computers to commit crimes could face up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to SR5 million, but lashing is not one of the punishments the law stated for these crimes.

How come that this man is being sentenced to a punishment that can’t be found in the law? How can this happen? Are the judges free to add any punishment they think is appropriate for a crime even if it is not part of the law on which the accused is being prosecuted?