Young American Sent to Prison in UAE for Posting Parody Video

A young American working in the United Arab Emirates was sentenced to a year in prison and a fine of 10,000 UAE Dirham (close to $2,700) for making a parody video about UAE teenagers and posting it online.

 Shezanne Cassim, 29, from Woodbury, Minnesota, had been living in Duabi since 2006 where he working for Pricewaterhouse Coopers after graduating from college. He and friends made the video in 2012. In April of the following year, Cassim was arrested and interrogated, after which he was moved to a maximum security prison in Abu Dhabi. It was only after five months that Cassim was informed what he was accused of.

The video in question pokes fun at Dubai teens who imitate hip hop culture. The 19-minute comedy, reminiscent of Saturday Night Live skits, puts the teens in a “combat school” and shows how the would-be “gangsters” are trained in throwing sandals and making whips from their clothing.

Although the charges were never read out in court – only the sentence — Cassim’s family says they were told Cassin’s crime was endangering security.

CNN reports that UAE officials would only say that, "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."  

CNN further reported that authorities in the UAE said that Cassim’s video violates the UAE’s cyber crime laws and endangered security. However, Cassim’s family notes that the law in question wasn’t even passed at the time that Cassim made the video.

The family has also not been told whether or not the eight months Cassim has already served will count toward his sentence.