American man arrested in Dubai for making satirical video

He is charged with endangering state security and public order in first case against foreigner under new cybercrimes law

Cassim, pictured in this undated photo provided by his family, is the first foreigner to be targeted under the UAE's new cybercrimes laws.
Courtesy Shervon Cassim/AP

A rights group said an American expatriate who posted a parody video about youth culture in Dubai on YouTube has been imprisoned in the emirate, charged with endangering state security, and repeatedly denied bail.

The London-based Emirates Centre for Human Rights said Wednesday that Sri Lankan-born Shezanne Cassim, 29, was arrested in April after posting a video in 2012.

Cassim, a 29-year-old from Woodbury, Minn., was the first foreigner arrested under tough new measures governing Internet use in the United Arab Emirates. Until now, the 2012 cybercrimes decree had been used to prosecute Emirati activists who challenge the treatment of political activists in the country.

"The video is a mock documentary in which Cassim profiles a fictional 'Satwa Combat School' in which students are taught to throw sandals as weapons and use social media for backup when under attack. The video begins with the caveat 'no offense was intended to the United Arab Emirates,'" the rights group said in a news release.

The group also said that Cassim had uploaded the video in October 2012, while the new law was not passed until November.

'Endangering state security'

Cassim was transferred to al-Wathba prison in Abu Dhabi in June and is being held with other foreigners who participated in the video and whose identities have not been released.

The charges include violating Article 28 of the new law, which could lead to imprisonment and a fine of up to $272,000. Authorities accuse Cassim of using the Internet to publish caricatures that are "liable to endanger state security and its higher interests or infringe on public order," the rights group said.

The U.S. embassy had no comment on the situation. Family spokeswoman Jennifer Gore said Cassim's relatives decided on Wednesday to make the case public.

No date has been set for the trial, and Gore told the rights group that Cassim was denied bail on several occasions but that he has not alleged mistreatment.

The case has sparked a debate over strict national laws on filming public scenes and people.

Another man was arrested earlier this year after he filmed and uploaded a video showing an Emirati man slapping and beating an Indian expatriate bus driver with his igal, or headband, on July 13.

Using Twitter, Dubai police announced officers had "arrested the man who shot the video of the bus driver incident."

Dubai police told local media that an Emirati man had also been arrested for the attack.

Responding to a question on social media from an Australian expatriate in the UAE over the law, the police said the cameraman was arrested "because he shared" the video.

Al Jazeera

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