An American citizen is being held in a maximum-security prison in the United Arab Emirates after posting a satirical YouTube video. He is the first foreign national to be charged with the country’s draconian cybercrimes decree.
Shezanne Cassim (29) posted a mock documentary spoofing youth culture in Dubai. For this he has been charged, among other things, with violating Article 28 of the cybercrimes law. This bans using “information technology to publish caricatures that are ‘liable to endanger state security and its higher interests or infringe on public order’” and is punishable by jail time and a fine of up to 1 million dirhams ($272,000). The video was posted on 10 October last year, and the law only came into force over a month later, on on 12 November.
Cassim, an American citizen who moved to Dubai 2006, was arrested on 7 April this year and had his passport confiscated. A trial date has not yet been set, and a spokesperson for his family says he has been denied bail on three occasions. He is currently being held in al-Wathba prison in Abu Dhabi, together with a number of other foreign nationals who took part in the video but who wish to remain anonymous.
Rori Donaghy, Director of the Emirates Centre for Human rights said in a statement that the case has “worrying implications for all expatriates living and working in the UAE.”
“Cassim has been thrown in prison for posting a silly video on YouTube and authorities must immediately release him as he has clearly not endangered state security in any way.”