Minnesotan jailed in Abu Dhabi for YouTube video

8:03 AM, Nov 28, 2013   |    comments
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WOODBURY, Minn. - A Minnesotan who posted a parody video about youth culture in Dubai is being held by authorities as the first foreigner arrested under tougher measures governing internet use in the United Arab Emirates.

The charges against 29-year-old Shezanne Cassim of Woodbury reflect the wider social media crackdowns by Gulf Arab authorities.

The YouTube video begins with a disclaimer that the following events are fictional and no offense was intended for the people of Satwa and the UAE.

Cassim's brother said the video is intended to be a joke.

"It's like somebody in the United States making a parody video of a Brooklyn hipster, and being held in jail for it and being held in jail for months without bail that's what's going on here," said Shervon Cassim.

Authorities in the United Arab Emirates claim the video is against federal cyber crime laws and poses a threat to national security.

The video is in English and spoofs a variety of things, from a shoe used as a training weapon, to cell phones used to call a friend to back you up to the dangers of the Satwa area, which Shervon Cassim said is like making fun of the dangers of Woodbury.

"It's just a straight forward silly comedy video and he's been treated like he's some sort of dangerous criminal under high security, maximum security conditions," said Shervon.

Jailed now for seven months, the family has asked local leaders like Senator Amy Klobuchar for assistance.

"What I think we need to do is call attention to this so that the United Arab Emirates steps back and looks at this again and expedites this case so that there's justice for this young man and his family," explained Klobuchar.

Shezanne Cassim was arrested in April, he's been in and out of court without any resolution. The latest setback in the case is a request from the judge to get the video translated from English to Arabic.

A State Department official adds, ""The Department of State and the U.S. Mission in the UAE are troubled by the prolonged incarceration of U.S. citizen, Shezanne Cassim.
We are providing consular services to Mr. Cassim. U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi and U.S. Consulate General Dubai personnel have visited Mr. Cassim regularly and attended all his court hearings. The U.S. Embassy and Consulate General have engaged with UAE counterparts to urge a fair and expedient trial and judgment."


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