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Dubai: American Detained For Parody Video About Youth Culture

US citizen being held in maximum security prison, with no end in sight, over YouTube parody video about UAE teenagers.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 11/28/2013, 12:49 PM

Prison - illustrative
Prison - illustrative
Flash 90

A Minnesota man working in the United Arab Emirates has been detained for over six months after posting a lighthearted spoof video about youth culture in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), rights groups claimed Wednesday. 

According to Fox News, Shezanne Cassim, 29, was arrested in April on allegations of violating a late 2012 law that toughens penalties for challenging authorities. He was moved to a maximum security prison in Abu Dhabi in June - and there is no indication that he is going to be released. 

Cassim's arrest is the first against a foreign national since the law was enacted. He has plead not guilty in court, and has made a statement about his involvement in the video.

While his trial date was originally set for October 28, the proceedings have been postponed over 5 times. The new date is in December.

This time, Cassim's trial has allegedly been postponed until the judge can obtain an Arabic translation of the video. The implications: Cassim may be held for making statements with the prosecution may not even be able to understand. 

"In all this time, they have refused to grant bail, with no explanation given," the accused brother Shervon stated to Fox News

Cassim moved to the Emirates in 2006 after obtaining a degree in Political Science from University of Minnesota. He once worked at Emirates Airlines, and was a business consultant at actuarial firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. Mike Davies, director of global public relations for PricewaterhouseCoopers, told that the company was looking into the matter. 

UAE officials, US Embassy officials in Dubai, and Cassim's family lawyer offered no comments on the case. 

The video shows a mock documentary of various fighting groups around the world, highlighting on the spoiled nature of UAE teenagers, who often live in luxury in the oil-rich country.

Various foreign national workers in the UAE participated in the video, which opens with a clear disclaimer that this is fiction and not meant to offend. The Daily Mail notes that all participants are also being detained on the charges, and are also being held under maximum security. 

Cassim's attorney, Susan Burns, pointed out that the video was posted one month before the new law was enacted, in October 2012. According to her understanding, the penalty should be a $250,000 fine and temporary imprisonment - not indefinite detainment. 

"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," Burns stated to reporters. 

US leaders have been called to intervene in the case, according to The Daily Mail. The US government may not be able to force UAE leadership to release Cassim - but it can demand immediate access to him.

The full video is included below.