UAE Arrests U.S. Citizen for Posting Satire Video

Sunday, December 01, 2013
Shezanna Cassim (AP Photo)

An American citizen has been imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) since April for producing a video that makes fun of youth culture in Dubai.


Shezanne Cassim is the first foreign national to be charged under a 2012 cybercrimes law that targets threats to national security made via the Internet. It was only after five months of incarceration that Cassim was told what the charges are against him.


His crime was posting a 19-minute video on YouTube about the fictional Satwa Combat School.


The mock documentary, which shows students using sandals as a form of weapon, was intended to satirize teenagers in Dubai who act like “gangstas,” but really are mild-mannered.


In addition to Cassim, several other foreign nationals who participated in the video were detained indefinitely, according to the London-based Emirates Centre for Human Rights (ECHR).


Human rights advocates say the cybercrimes law also has been used to prosecute local political activists.


Violators of Article 28 of the law are subject to imprisonment and fines of up to $272,000 for publishing caricatures that are “liable to endanger state security and its higher interests or infringe on public order.”


“The charges against him are as ludicrous as they are harsh,” ECHR director Rori Donaghy said, “and all defendants should be immediately released because posting a  playful video about youth culture in no way endangers anyone’s state security.”


Cassim, 29, moved to Dubai in 2006 after graduating from the University of Minnesota and working as a business consultant in the aviation division of PricewaterhouseCoopers.


He is being held in a maximum security cell awaiting a trial date.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Dubai Holding US Man over Spoof Video, Activists Say (BBC News)

U.S. State Department Monitoring Shezanne Cassim's Case (by Corey Mitchell, Star Tribune)

Ultimate Combat System: The Deadly Satwa Gs (YouTube)


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