American held in Dubai for online parody
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Last Updated: Thursday, November 28, 2013, 14:49
Minneapolis: An American man who works in the United Arab Emirates has been held in a maximum-security prison for months after posting a parody video about youth culture in Dubai, a rights group and family attorney said.

Shezanne Cassim, 29, of Woodbury, Minn, was arrested in April and charged with violating a 2012 cybercrimes law that boosts penalties for allegedly challenging authorities, attorney Susan Burns said. He was moved to a maximum security prison in Abu Dhabi in June.

He's been accused of endangering national security, and is the first foreigner arrested under tougher measures governing Internet use in the United Arab Emirates, according to the London-based Emirates Centre for Human Rights.

Cassim has entered a not guilty plea in court, and has made a statement about his involvement in the video, which he created and posted online in 2012, said Cassim's brother, Shervon.

Shezanne Cassim was born in Sri Lanka and is a US citizen. He moved to Dubai after graduating from the University of Minnesota in 2006 with a bachelor's degree in political science. He worked for Emirates Airline before taking a job this spring as a business consultant in the aviation division of PricewaterhouseCoopers, Shervon Cassim said.

The family was initially told a verdict would be issued Oct 28, but the verdict has been postponed five times, most recently because a judge was waiting for an Arabic translation of the video.

"And in all this time, they have refused to grant bail, with no explanation given," Shervon Cassim said.

His brother's next court date is Dec 16.

United Arab Emirates authorities did not return messages seeking comment. The US Embassy had no comment.

A message left with the US State Department was not returned, and Cassim's attorney in Dubai said in an email he had no comment. Mike Davies, director of global public relations for PricewaterhouseCoopers, said the company was looking into the matter.


First Published: Thursday, November 28, 2013, 14:49

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