UPDATE: Shez Cassim Back Home After Months in UAE Jail

Posted January 14th, 2014 at 5:14 pm (UTC+0)
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As RePRESSed noted in a recent update, Shezanne Cassim, the US citizen who was jailed in the UAE for a parody YouTube video, has been deported from the UAE and is finally back in his home state of Minnesota.

“I think there’s a misconception that I broke a law,” he told reporters of the local NBC television affiliate, KARE (see video, above). “But I want to say I did nothing wrong.  There is nothing illegal about the video, even under UAE law.”

“Due to the political situation there, they’re scared of democracy. 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.” Shez Cassim, Jan. 9, 2014

Cassim cut short his remarks but indicated that at a later date., he would have much more to say about his experiences and observations in the UAE.

Meanwhile, Cassim’s co-defendents are still in jail, and UAE human rights activist Obaid Yousif has been arrested because he gave information about Cassim’s case to the CNN news network.

The Emirates Center for Human Rights (ECHR) says this is not his first arrest. Al-Zaabi was detained last July for  tweeting, as @bukhaledobaid, messages of political reform in the UAE. He was released a month later on bail because of poor health.

ECHR director Rori Donaghy says he has no doubt Al-Zaabi’s latest arrest is related to the CNN interview.

“There is little doubt that Obaid al-Zaabi has been arrested for being brave enough to speak out against the human rights abuses being carried out by authorities in the UAE,” Donaghy said.  “It is hard to view the UAE as anything short of a police state when citizens disappear at the hands of state security simply for taking part in a television interview.”

Watch Al-Zaabi’s interview with CNN, below:

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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