Shezanne Cassim Released From United Arab Emirates Prison
Shezanne Cassim returned to the United States on Thursday following a long imprisonment in the United Arab Emirates for posting a parody video about Dubai teenagers.
Shezanne Cassim Released
Upon his return, Cassim censured the UAE authorizes for keeping him jailed for so long and for not telling him the charges levied against him or his sentence for the unknown crimes for months.
"I did nothing wrong," Cassim maintained. "There was nothing illegal about the video, even under UAE law. I was tried in a textbook kangaroo court, and I was convicted without any evidence. We had no idea of what our crime was. We had no idea how long we'd be in prison for. We weren't actually told what our crime was until five months later, after we were taken in. Even then, we heard rumors of the charges, and they kept on changing."
Following months of uncertainly, Cassim received a sentence of a year in prison and roughly a $2,700 fine. Although the charges were not read in court, he had been accused of defaming the UAE’s image abroad, according to CNN. In the jargon of UAE officials, Cassim was “charged under the UAE’s penal code.”
Cassim Blasts UAE 'Kangaroo Court'
Cassim believes that the reason he was jailed had to do with UAE politics, and the government’s fear of democracy. By incarcerating him, he believes that they were sending a message to future dissidents.
“Due to the political situation there, they're scared of democracy,” Cassim said. “They wanted to send a message to the UAE public, saying, 'Look what we'll do to people who do just a silly YouTube video, so imagine if you do something that's actually critical of the government.' It's a warning message, and we're scapegoats.”
In Cassim’s video, Dubai teenagers are depicted attending a “combat school” and becoming influenced by hip-hop music and culture. In their school, they learn to use clothing as whips among other lessons.
– Chelsea Regan