Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat-In the opinion of a large number of Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council, the reported criminal sentence of 20 years imprisonment for disclosing confidential documents in Saudi Arabia is not proportionate with a crime that may lead to a breach of Saudi national security, especially during a time of war.
More than one Shura Council member has called for the death penalty or life imprisonment with hard labor, to be sentenced to those convicted of treason or working for a hostile power against national interests or passing documents or important information to hostile parties.
The criminal sentence for disclosing classified documents is 20 years imprisonment and a fine of 1 million riyals, and has been implemented in 6 cases of disclosing classified information which threatened national security. This led the Shura Council members to object to this sentence, and call for the death penalty for anybody convicted of breaching national security by disclosing confidential information.
However Shura Council member Mohamed al-Quwaihis called for differentiating between cases of disclosing confidential information and cases of disclosing confidential information that leads to a breach of national security.
Shura Council member Dr. Sadaqa Fadhil said that Saudi Arabia should review its special “counter-intelligence” system, and that this is important for putting in place the required sentencing guidelines for those convicted of disclosing confidential documents.
Dr. Fadhil also pointed to the necessity of putting in place appropriate sentencing guidelines for sentencing those convicted of disclosing confidential information in which the sentence matches the crime. The crime of disclosing confidential information applies to those who sell secret information to hostile parties as well as those who destroy confidential documents.
Prince Khaled al Mashari, a member of the Shura Council, said that it would be “inappropriate” for there to be a single general sentence for this crime, highlighting the possibility that confidential documents may be destroyed in an attempt to preserve information and prevent documents from falling into the hands of some groups who may use this information to incite unrest or attempt to overthrow the government.
For his part, Shura Council member Suleiman al-Zaidi said that there should not be equal punishment between officials who disclose state secrets, and those who publish these secrets like journalists, as the crime committed by the former is far greater than publishing, especially as the journalist has not been entrusted by the State with its secrets.
The current system of sentencing those convicted of disclosing classified documents does not specify a minimum penalty for this crime. However Shura Council member Abdul Rahman al-Atwi has pushed for the specification of a minimum and maximum penalty for this crime, believing that this will act as a deterrent in future cases, although this is an opinion held only by a minority of the Shura Council.
In addition to this, the Shura Council yesterday agreed to the recommendations made by the Special Committee on proposals to amend some articles with regards to military pension, agreeing to amend the first paragraph of Article III of military retirement to add subsistence allowance and transport allowance to the basic military pension.