Woodbury Man Held in UAE over Video to be Released

Updated: 01/07/2014 10:39 PM
Created: 01/07/2014 2:49 PM
By: Cassie Hart

An American who's been held in the United Arab Emirates for roughly nine months is expected to be released.
Shezanne Cassim, of Woodbury, Minn., was arrested in April after posting a parody video online about youth culture in Dubai.
In December, he was sentenced to one year in prison, a fine and deportation.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Pooja Jhunjhunwala says Tuesday that Cassim has been moved to a deportation facility for processing. She says: "We understand processing will take a few days at which point he will be returning to the United States."

“I can’t tell you how relieved our family is by this turn of events,” said Shez’s brother, Shervon Cassim.  “We are very excited, and we are grateful to everyone who worked to free Shez.”

The United Arab Emirates-owned daily The National has said Cassim and others were accused of defaming the country's image abroad. Cassim's supporters say he was charged under a cybercrimes law that tightened penalties for challenging authorities.

Last week Shez’s family reached out to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry before his trip to the Middle East. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar also has been steadily working to secure Shez’s release.

“The disregard for freedom of expression, the arbitrary application of this cybercrime law, the constant delays revealed the U.A.E. legal system as archaic and unfair by modern standards,” noted Susan Burns, the Cassim family’s U.S. attorney handling the case.  “However, we are relieved that the U.A.E. finally realized that Shezanne deserved to be released.”

Cassim had been working in Dubai since 2006 and had recently started a job at PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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