The Emirates Center for Human Rights (ECHR) has announced that Shezanne Cassim, the American citizen jailed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for making a spoof video about Dubai’s “Satwa” hip hop culture, is about to be released from jail. Minneapolis, Minnesota lawyer Susan Burns, who represents Cassim’s family, told RePRESSed that it’s official.
“State Department official channels confirm that he has been transferred to a deportation processing center,” Burns said. If all goes according to plan, Cassim, 29, will be heading back home to Minnesota within two to four days.
“The disregard for freedom of expression, the arbitrary application of this cybercrime law, the constant delays revealed the U.A.E. legal system as archaic and unfair by modern standards,” noted Burns. “However, we are relieved that the U.A.E. finally realized that Shezanne deserved to be released.”
Cassim was originally arrested April 7, 2012 and has been held in a high-security prison ever since. The one year court sentence, minus time served, also mandated that he be deported from the UAE following his release–and pay a 10,000 dirham ($2,725) fine.
He and four colleagues were convicted December 23 of “endangering state security” for having produced the video. Some interpreted it as an attempt to portray the Satwa neighborhood as dangerous and full of criminals. Cassim was arrested April 7, 2012, and held in a maximum-security prison.
“I can’t tell you how relieved our family is by this turn of events,” said Shez’s brother, Shervon Cassim. “We are very excited, and we are grateful to everyone who worked to free Shez.”
ECHR Director Rori Donaghy says while it may be a great relief to the family, “until authorities change the cyber crimes law, it is simply a matter of time before another story of injustice emerges from the UAE.”