UAE court convicts eight over 'spoof documentary video'

Shezanne Cassim Shezanne Cassim's family said the video merely poked fun at teenagers

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Six foreigners and two UAE citizens have been sentenced to up to a year in jail for making what they say is a spoof video about Dubai youth culture.

A state security court found them guilty of "defaming the UAE society's image abroad", according to the state-owned newspaper, The National.

The family of American Shezanne Cassim, confirmed he was one of the six jailed for a year, three of them in absentia.

The foreigners were the first to be charged under a 2012 cybercrimes law.

It provides a legal basis to prosecute people who use information technology to criticise senior officials, argue for political reform or organise unlicensed demonstrations.

'No offence intended'

The National reported that an American, whom it referred to by the initials "S C", and two Indians, "R" and "A", were sentenced to a year in prison and given a 10,000 dirham ($2,723; £1,666) fine.

Start Quote

These young filmmakers are suffering the consequences of authorities who are increasingly sensitive to any form of criticism, no matter how mild”

End Quote Rori Donaghy Emirates Centre for Human Rights

Two UAE citizens, brothers -"S D" and "S D" - were jailed for eight months and fined 5,000 dirhams, while a third brother, "A D", was pardoned, the newspaper added.

A Canadian woman, "S", a British woman, "L", and an American man, "T", were convicted in absentia and sentenced to a year in prison and fined 10,000 dirhams.

The defendants were reportedly accused of violating Article 28, which calls for imprisonment for anyone who uses information technology "with the intent of inciting to actions, or publishing or disseminating any information, news, caricatures, or other images liable to endanger state security and its higher interests or infringe on the public order".

The 19-minute video, entitled Satwa Combat School, was posted on YouTube in October 2012.

It opens with the explanatory text: "The following events are fictional and no offence was intended to the people of Satwa or UAE."

Set in the Satwa district of Dubai, the video is a mock documentary about a fictional establishment in which students are taught to throw sandals as a form of weapon, and seek aid through social media when in need of back-up.

Cassim's family said the video poked fun at teenagers in Dubai who styled themselves as "gangstas" but were more known for their mild behaviour.

The UK-based Emirates Centre for Human Rights (ECHR) said the defendants were denied proper access to lawyers and made to sign documents they did not understand.

"These young filmmakers are suffering the consequences of authorities who are increasingly sensitive to any form of criticism, no matter how mild. This case has laid bare problems with due legal process and restrictive internet laws in the UAE," said the ECHR's director, Rori Donaghy.

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