Woodbury Man Sentenced to 1 Year in Prison in Dubai Video Case

Updated: 12/23/2013 8:12 PM
Created: 12/23/2013 9:17 AM
By: Scott Theisen

A Woodbury High School and University of Minnesota graduate is sentenced to a year in prison overseas for making a funny YouTube video.

Shez Cassim, 29, has been locked up in the United Arab Emirates since April, and Monday's ruling only adds to the international outcry over the case, and demands for his immediate release.

Cassim's court appearances had been pushed back over and over for months before he finally learned his fate on Monday. The reaction has been fierce -- coming from politicians, comedians, and most of all, his family.

"We don't sleep. We worry about this all day, all night. We just want Shez to be home and safe," said Shervon Cassim, Shez's brother, back on Thanksgiving Day.

It's nearly Christmas, and still, Shez Cassim remains locked up in a maximum security prison, 7,000 miles from his family in Minnesota.

His crime? Posting a satirical YouTube video that pokes fun at suburban teenagers.

"My little brother posted this innocent comedy video on YouTube, and he's in jail for it," Shervon Cassim said on Monday after learning of the sentence.

Cassim was charged under the UAE's federal cybercrimes law. State media reported he was accused of "defaming the image of United Arab Emirates society abroad."

On Monday, a judge announced his punishment: one year in prison.

"I was horrified and disappointed and just really saddened by this decision," Shervon Cassim said.

"This was a shockingly long sentence," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota.

Klobuchar voiced her outrage hours after the sentence was announced.

"My heart's with their family today, but we need to get this kid home," Klobuchar said.

Anger is coming from the comedy community as well. The website Funny Or Die has started a "Free Shez" campaign, with celebrities like Will Ferrell urging his release.

"We are amazed and so grateful for the support that we're getting from all over the world," Shervon Cassim said.

But all his relatives really want is for their loved one to come home.

"For my brother to be put through this on account of such a normal, everyday activity -- it's shocking," Shervon Cassim said.

Even though Cassim was sentenced to a year in prison, he could get out sooner because he's already served more than eight months. State media in the UAE has reported he will be released next month. But the family and the U.S. government is still trying to confirm that he can get credit for time served.

American officials, including the U.S. Ambassador, are helping to secure Cassim's release.

He will be deported once he's released from prison.

Photo: MGN Online

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