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Report: Minnesota man to be freed from Abu Dhabi prison

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The Star Tribune reports that United Arab Emirates officials plan to free a former Minnesota man who was imprisoned in Abu Dhabi for making a mock documentary that was posted to YouTube.

Shezanne “Shez” Cassim is expected back in Minnesota this week, family spokeswoman Jennifer Gore told the newspaper. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., among those who has pushed for Cassim's release, said the news was the "best start to 2014 I can imagine," FOX 9 reports.

Cassim has been moved to a deportation facility for processing, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Pooja Jhunjhunwala said Tuesday, KSTP reported.

Cassim is a U.S. citizen born in Sri Lanka, formerly of Woodbury, who moved to Dubai after he graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2006.

His friends and family say he and several others were imprisoned for making a humorous film that was nothing more than a spoof on youth culture in Dubai. They launched a Facebook campaign to help win his release.

Cassim and his filmmaking colleagues were put in jail in April and transferred to an Abu Dhabi prison in June. Just before Christmas, a UAE judge finally sentenced Cassim, to a year in prison, plus deportation.

Cassim's case had the attention of the U.S. State Department and Minnesota lawmakers in Congress.

Comedians, too, rallied for Cassim. The comedy website co-founded by Will Ferrell, “Funny or Die,” posted a video urging the United Arab Emirates to reconsider Cassim's imprisonment.

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