Written by Staff Writer
23 Dec, 2013 | 6:43 pm
Shezanne Cassim, the American jailed in the United Arab Emirates and accused of threatening national security for a video parody, was sentenced Monday to one year in prison and a 10,000 UAE Dirham fine (approximately $2,700).
The young American living in the United Arab Emirates has been imprisoned since April, his family says, for posting what was intended to be a funny video on the internet.
The video in question is a 19-minute short that pokes fun at a clique of Dubai teens who are influenced by hip-hop culture. In the 1990s, the label “Satwa G” was coined for a group of suburban teens who were known to talk tougher than they really were.
The video depicts a look at a “combat school” in the suburb of Satwa, where these “gangsters” are trained. The training includes how to throw sandals at targets, using clothing accessories as whips, and how to call on the phone for backup.
Cassim’s family says Shezanne, 29, has been charged with endangering national security, but they’ve not been told what about the video endangered security.
The charges were not read out in court. UAE officials would only say “Mr. Cassim was charged under the UAE’s penal code. Anyone charged with a crime under the laws of the UAE is entitled to the fair trial protections contained in the UAE’s constitution.”
Cassim, from Woodbury, Minnesota, moved to Dubai in 2006 after graduating college to work for PricewaterhouseCoopers.
He and some friends made and posted the video online in 2012. He was arrested in April.
He was interrogated and arrested in Dubai before being transferred to a maximum security prison in Abu Dhabi. His family says it was five months before he was notified of the charges against him.
Authorities in the United Arab Emirates claim the comedic video violates cyber crime laws and poses a threat to national security. But Cassim’s family says they haven’t been told why the video endangered security and that the law wasn’t passed until after the video was released.
In an interview with CNN on December 5, Cassim’s brother, Shervon, said Shezanne had made the video for fun and didn’t understand the charges against him.
“It was just for fun. It was — he’s a big fan of sketch comedies. He’s a big fan of “SNL,” “Funny or Die,” all those shows and he and his friends just wanted to make a funny sketch comedy in their spare time,” Shervon Cassim said.
“There was no indication in local law that making a comedy video, making fun of teenagers in the suburbs was a threat to the UAE’s national security.”
The family said they had spoken to him when he was allowed a phone call out.
“He tries to put on a brave face,” Shervon Cassim said. “He said that he was doing fine, not to worry about him, but I could just sense that he’s a little depressed — my impression is that he’s going just a little bit crazy in his cell.”
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