UAE Sentences American to Prison for Satirical Video on Dubai

Tuesday, 24 Dec 2013 11:24 AM

By Michael Mullins

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The UAE sentenced an American to up to one year in prison Monday for his role in the production of a satirical video that the government felt negatively depicted youth culture in Dubai.

The parody video was a spoof documentary about the so-called "gangsta" lifestyle of some youth in the Gulf Arab city-state, the Associated Press reported.

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Shezanne Cassim, a Sri Lanka-born 29-year-old U.S. citizen who relocated from Woodbury, Minn., to the United Arab Emirates after graduating from college in 2006, produced the video with the help of a few friends.

The video was uploaded to the Internet and Cassim was arrested in April along with his cohorts – two Indian nationals and two Emirati brothers – and convicted on "defaming the image of United Arab Emirates society abroad," according to the state-owned newspaper The National.

The Indian nationals reportedly received similar sentences to Cassim; however, the two Emirati brothers received only eight months in prison for their involvement.

After completing his prison sentence and paying a $2,725 fine imposed by the Dubai court, Cassim will be deported back to U.S., the AP reported.

"Shez is coming up on nine months incarceration for making a parody. This isn't justice," Cassim's brother, Shervon told the AP in a statement, calling the ruling "painful and unfair."

Though the verdict brought no immediate reaction from the U.S. Embassy, last week State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said that American officials were troubled by Cassim's "prolonged incarceration" and called for "a fair and expedient trial and judgment."

The 20-minute video was called "Ultimate Combat System: The Deadly Satwa Gs."

In the parody documentary, Dubai youth in the Satwa district of Dubai are mocked for portraying themselves to be "gangsta" thugs yet in reality are far from it, showing make believe encounters in which teens undergo combat training by throwing sandals and using their cell phones to call for help.

The video begins with a message that reads: "The following events are fictional and no offense was intended to the people of Satwa and UAE."

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