UPDATE: UAE Sentences American Spoof Film Maker to One Year in Jail

Posted December 23rd, 2013 at 3:15 pm (UTC+0)
1 comment

ShezWorkIn follow up to an earlier post, an American citizen is among eight youths in Dubai who have been convicted of “defaming the UAE society’s image abroad” and sentenced to jail terms ranging from eight months to one year.

Minnesota resident Shezanne Cassim, along with two Indian co-defendants, received the longest prison sentences — one year — and fined 10,000 AED ($2,700). Two Emirati defendants were sentenced to 8 months and one Emirati was pardoned by the state security court in Abu Dhabi.

Another three defendants were given one-year terms and fined the same amount in absentia. According to the UAE National newspaper reports they are a Canadian woman, a British woman and an American man.

It is expected that Cassim’s sentence will include time already served in jail, and that he will be released in January.

The Emirates Center for Human Rights (ECHR) says that the youths were not allowed to see their lawyers and were forced to sign documents in Arabic–a language they do 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,” ECHR director Rori Donaghy said.

The group produced a spoof video of Dubai youth culture called  “Ultimate Combat System: The Deadly Satwa Gs”, making fun of the hip hop craze in a suburb of Dubai called Satwa.

Defense attorneys say the youths did not intend to mock the UAE’s culture or harm its reputation internationally.

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

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About rePRESSEDed

VOA reporter Cecily Hilleary monitors the state of free expression and free speech around the world.

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