Shezanne Cassim set for release from UAE prison after satirical video term

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 January, 2014, 9:53pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 January, 2014, 9:53pm


An American who has been held in the United Arab Emirates for nine months in connection with a satirical video about youth culture in Dubai was expected to be released soon, the US State Department said.

Shezanne Cassim, 29, was arrested in April, six months after he and others uploaded their spoof documentary to the internet.

The UAE-government-owned daily, The National, has said Cassim and his co-defendants were accused of defaming the country's image abroad. Cassim's supporters said he was charged with endangering state security under a 2012 cyber-crimes law that tightened penalties for challenging authorities.

Cassim has been in the maximum security prison at Abu Dhabi since June. In December, he was convicted and sentenced to one year in jail, a fine and deportation.

A US State Department spokeswoman said that Cassim has been moved to a deportation facility for processing.

"We understand processing will take a few days at which point he will be returning to the United States," she said.

Cassim's family said he was out of his cell block and in a deportation processing section of the prison. They expected him to return home this week.

"I can't tell you how relieved our family is by this … ," Cassim's brother, Shervon Cassim, said. "We are very excited, and we are grateful to everyone who worked to free Shez."

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Cassim has been credited with pre-trial detention time and given time off for good behaviour.

Cassim's video, titled Ultimate Combat System: The Deadly Satwa Gs, is set in the Satwa district of Dubai. It is a documentary-style video that pokes fun at Dubai youth who styled themselves "gangstas" but were not particularly thuggish.