The Star Tribune reports a 29-year-old Woodbury man has been in a maximum-security prison in Abu Dhabi since June after he posted a video to YouTube that he meant to be a spoof on youth culture in Dubai.
United Arab Emirates officials say the 19-minute video, "Ultimate Combat System: The Deadly Satwa G's," violates federal cyber crimes law and is a national security threat.
But family members of Shezanne "Shez" Cassim, a graduate of the University of Minnesota, say the mock documentary and a blooper reel were produced in fun, the Star Tribune reports. The video starts with the disclaimer, “The video is fictional and no offence [sic] was intended to the United Arab Emirates or to the people of Satwa.” The Star Tribune notes that Al Satwa is a dining and shipping area in Dubai.
Cassim, a U.S. citizen born in Sri Lanka, has lived and worked in Dubai since 2006, his family members tell the Star Tribune.
Cassim originally uploaded the video to YouTube in October 2012. Dubai officials jailed him and took away his passport in April, and in June he was transferred to Al-Wathba Prison, the Star Tribune reports. Several others, including two Emirati citizens, also were taken to the prison.
Family members are doing what they can to free Cassim, but they say that his bail has been denied three times and no trial date has been set, the Star Tribune reports. The family has hired a lawyer in Minnesota, and Minnesota lawmakers in Congress are trying to work with Dubai officials on the case, the Star Tribune reports.
The U.S. State Department notes in its travel report for the UAE, "Individuals have been arrested for posting information on Twitter and YouTube that local authorities determined was disturbing to the order of the UAE. Users of social media should be cautious about posting information that might be deemed to insult or challenge the local government."
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates, with a population of nearly 1 million, and is often called the world's richest city. Dubai is the largest city in the UAE, which is a federation of seven emirates.
The U.S. State Department says that 3,500 U.S. citizens were arrested in foreign countries in 2010.