A Minnesota man who works in the United Arab Emirates has been held in a maximum-security prison for months because he made a YouTube video spoofing Dubai youth.
Shezanne Cassim, 29, of Woodbury, Minn., posted a 19-minute video to YouTube in 2012 called “Satwa Combat School” in which he jokes about Dubai teens who call themselves “gangstas” and have comedic methods of fighting with sandals and other household items.
Cassim, who has worked in Abu Dhabi since graduating from the University of Minnesota in 2006, was arrested in April. Dubai authorities revoked his passport on April 7. He was moved to a maximum security prison in Abu Dhabi in June.
Dubai authorities say the fictional combat training spoof endangered national security.
“It’s tragic. It’s something that can happen to anybody, especially young people who post all the time on YouTube,” said Susan Bunrs, a lawyer hired by his family in Minnesota. “To be incarcerated over something that’s clearly a joke, clearly meant in jest, clearly meant in good humor — and held for seven months — is a violation of human rights.”
The country instated strict cyber-crime laws in 2012 that carry tough penalties for questioning authority.
A verdict in his case has been postponed five times, most recently because a judge was waiting for an Arabic translation of the comedic video.
“And in all this time, they have refused to grant bail, with no explanation given,” said his brother Shervon Cassim.
Cassim’s next court date is Dec. 16.