American held in Dubai for online parody

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.

PTI| Updated: Nov 28, 2013, 14:49 PM IST

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.