Washington (AFP) – A UAE court on Monday adjourned until December 23 the trial of an 29-year-old American jailed since April after making a YouTube video poking fun at Dubai teenagers, his family said.
Shezzane Cassim, known as Shez by his friends, has been held for eight months after being charged with endangering the UAE’s national security under a federal cyber crimes law.
“This is the sixth consecutive postponement of a final judgement. Another court appearance has been scheduled for December 23,” his family said in a statement.
The court has now received an Arabic translation of the video, the statement said.
“We were hoping that since the court finally got a translation of the video that the court would see the video is fictional — as it says on the initial screen shot,” said Cassim’s brother Shervon in the statement.
“But now we are in wait-and-see mode again and Shez won’t be home for Christmas, which has been our mother’s prayer,” he said.
The silly 19-minute comic video, called the “Satwa Comedy School,” gently parodies Dubai teenagers from the Satwa district who styled themselves as tough “gangstas” wearing hip-hip clothes and listening to rap music, but who in reality were known for very mild behavior.
In the mock documentary, Cassim and his friends learn the latest techniques of “Satwa G’s combat” which include the correct way to throw a shoe at a newspaper, and how in extreme cases to use a mobile phone to call for back-up.
“Shezzane and his friends are in jail because the UAE has a dysfunctional justice system and deeply repressive laws,” charged Nicholas McGeehan, Gulf researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“The hope for them and their families is that the negative (public relations) PR will significantly outweigh any perceived benefit to keeping them locked up,” he told AFP.
Cassim, who hails from Minnesota, had been living in UAE since 2006 working for PriceWaterHouseCoopers.
He is now being held in a maximum-security prison outside Abu Dhabi.
The US State Department, which has already voiced concerns about the cyber crimes law under which Cassim was charged, has been actively raising his case with the Emirati authorities.
Washington was “troubled by the prolonged incarceration” of Cassim, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
Cassim had been held for five months before he was even notified of the charges against him. It is understood that his friends, who are not US nationals, who made the satirical comedy with him have also been jailed and charged.