Middle East

American imprisoned in UAE for 'spoof video' returns to US

Shezanne Cassim Image copyright AP
Image caption Shezanne Cassim was sentenced to one year in jail stemming from his participation in a documentary video (file photo)

An American who was sentenced to prison in the United Arab Emirates for making a spoof video about Dubai youth culture has returned to the US.

Shezanne Cassim, 29, arrived in his home state of Minnesota on Thursday.

Cassim and seven others were convicted in December of defaming the UAE image abroad under a 2012 cybercrimes law.

Arrested in April and later sentenced to one year in prison, Cassim was reportedly given credit for time served and good behaviour.

Cassim, a US citizen who moved to Dubai for work in 2006, participated in a 19-minute video, entitled Satwa Combat School, which was posted on YouTube in October 2012.

'Fictional' events

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, another American man, two Indians, two UAE citizens, a British citizen and a Canadian were later convicted of crimes stemming from the video.

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", according to local media reports.

Cassim subsequently became the public face of the defendants after his family publicised his incarceration.

"You can imagine the torture they've been under for nine months, not knowing if they were going to see him, when they were going to see him," Susan Burns, the family's attorney, told the Associated Press news agency.

"Now, they are ecstatic to be able to actually see him," she concluded.

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