Policy & Law
An American man has been arrested and repeatedly denied bail in the United Arab Emirates, after he posted a satirical YouTube video about life for young residents of Dubai. The detention of Shezanne Cassim, 29, is reportedly the first time that a foreigner has been arrested under the UAE's tough new cybercrime laws.
In a press release issued yesterday, the Emirates Center for Human Rights stated that Cassim was arrested in April of this year for his role in the video, which he uploaded to YouTube in October, 2012. According to the group, Cassim is being held at a maximum-security prison in Abu Dhabi along with other participants in the video's creation. Cassim faces prison time and upwards of $250,000 in fines, the group said, and is being accused of using the Internet to publish "caricatures" that are "liable to endanger state security and its higher interests or infringe on public order."
"No offense was intended to the people of Satwa and UAE."
The video in question, shown above in a screenshot and in full, is a 19-minute mock documentary shot in Dubai. It profiles a group of students attending a fictional "Satwa Combat School," and is largely a spoof on the idea that young UAE residents pose as "tough" but are actually mild in their demeanor. The video begins with a disclaimer that reads "The following events are fictional [and] no offense was intended to the people of Satwa and UAE." But according to officials, the video is far from a lighthearted satire: they say that it violates Article 28 of a rigid cybercrime decree introduced in 2012 — one month after Cassim posted the video.
Cassim, who relocated from Minnesota to Dubai for work after graduating college in 2006, has reportedly been denied bail on three separate occasions and doesn't yet have a trial date. Until this week, his family members living in the US had elected to protect his identity as they worked towards his release.
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