Canadian, American among 8 convicted in Dubai for parody video

Published: December 23, 2013
PARODY

A Canadian and an American from Sri Lanka are among the eight people convicted and sentenced in Dubai’s parody case. PNG archive

ADAM SCHRECK
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A court in the United Arab Emirates sentenced eight people, including an unidentified Canadian, on Monday after being convicted in connection to a satirical video about youth culture in Dubai.

The Canadian was among three defendants sentenced in absentia.

The video they produced and uploaded to the Internet was a spoof documentary of would-be “gangsta” youth in the Gulf Arab city-state. The state-owned daily The National said they were accused of “defaming the image of United Arab Emirates society abroad.” Supporters of the defendants reported that they were charged under a 2012 cybercrimes law that tightened penalties for challenging authorities.

Shezanne Cassim, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen from Woodbury, Minn., became the public face of the defendants after his family launched an effort to publicize his months-long incarceration following his arrest in April.

Cassim, who was born in Sri Lanka and moved to Dubai for work after graduating from the University of Minnesota in 2006, was sentenced Monday to a year in prison followed by deportation and received a 10,000 dirham ($2,725) fine, according to family spokeswoman Jennifer Gore.

Cassim’s brother, Shervon, called the ruling “painful and unfair.”

“Shez is coming up on nine months incarceration for making a parody. This isn’t justice,” he said in a statement.

American consular officials have been following the case closely and attended Monday’s hearing at the State Security Court in the federal capital, Abu Dhabi.

The U.S. Embassy had no immediate comment following the verdict. State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf last week said American officials were troubled by Cassim’s “prolonged incarceration” and called for “a fair and expedient trial and judgment.”

Two Indian defendants received similar sentences, while two Emirati brothers were sentenced to eight months behind bars and received 5,000 dirham fines, according to The National. A third brother was pardoned.

Two other defendants, a Briton and an American, were convicted and sentenced in absentia to the penalties given to the other foreigners. They, along with the Canadian, have never been detained by authorities and so are unlikely to serve their sentences.

The paper identified the defendants only by their initials, which is common in the Emirati media.

Gulf Arab authorities have been cracking down on social media use over the past two years, with dozens of people arrested across the region for Twitter posts deemed offensive to leaders or for social media campaigns urging more political openness.

The video, called “Ultimate Combat System: The Deadly Satwa Gs,” is set in the Satwa district of Dubai. It is a documentary style clip that pokes fun at Dubai youth who styled themselves “gangstas” but are not particularly thuggish, and shows fictional “combat” training that includes throwing a sandal and using a mobile phone to call for help.

It opens with text saying the video is fictional and is not meant to offend.

The case has drawn attention from celebrity comedians in the U.S. The comedy video website Funny or Die, co-founded by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, posted a video earlier this month to raise awareness about Cassim’s situation.

In the video, McKay says: “Basically Dubai, if you want to be viewed as an international place, destination — don’t put people in jail for making silly videos. … It’s one thing to have a bad sense of humour. It’s another thing to lock somebody up because of it.”

Related Stories:

——

Associated Press writer Amy Forliti contributed from Minneapolis.

19:21ET 23-12-13

[+]

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,



Readers Comments (0)

Comments are closed.

Featured

Surrey-politics

Barinder Rasode primed to run for Surrey mayor’s chair

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI Surrey city councillor Barinder Rasode will officially announce her bid for mayor at a “special celebration” organized at SFU Surrey on…
Continue Reading »

Little India

Death of a neighbourhood? Little India’s Punjabi Market struggles to survive

GORDON MCINTYRE VANCOUVER DESI When Simran and Hardeep Virk met 20 years ago at Langara College, they’d go to All India Sweets & Restaurant for…
Continue Reading »

New Westminster BC crime

Surrey teen Serena Vermeersch’s murder has neighbourhood on edge

JOHN COLEBOURN AND CHERYL CHAN VANCOUVER DESI Homicide investigators are searching for the driver of a pickup truck spotted in the area where a 17-year-old…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

Surrey-politics

Barinder Rasode primed to run for Surrey mayor’s chair

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI Surrey city councillor Barinder Rasode will officially announce her bid for mayor at a “special celebration” organized at SFU Surrey on…
Continue Reading »

Rally held in Saskatoon in support of 65-year-old woman deported to Pakistan

THE CANADIAN PRESS SASKATOON — Supporters of a 65-year-old woman who was deported to her native Pakistan earlier this week have held a rally at…
Continue Reading »

Little India

Death of a neighbourhood? Little India’s Punjabi Market struggles to survive

GORDON MCINTYRE VANCOUVER DESI When Simran and Hardeep Virk met 20 years ago at Langara College, they’d go to All India Sweets & Restaurant for…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

COLD_MURDER_SENTENCE_20130410_210705138

Vancouver murder victim’s family relieved as judges reject killer’s appeal of conviction (w/ video)

KEITH FRASER VANCOUVER DESI The family and friends of murdered Vancouver teen Poonam Randhawa breathed a collective sigh of relief as the girl’s killer lost…
Continue Reading »

India weird news

Air India passenger finds half-eaten worm mixed in his breakfast on flight to Delhi

VANCOUVER DESI An Air India passenger in upper economy class was horrified when he noticed a half-eaten worm mixed in with his breakfast plate on…
Continue Reading »

deportation-Canada

Blatchford: Pakistani woman deserves a better life in this big, empty country

CHRISTIE BLATCHFORD POSTMEDIA NEWS When I saw the picture of a weeping Jamila Bibi in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix on Tuesday, I thought of only one…
Continue Reading »

politicians barred

Pakistani politicians barred from flight for turning up late (w/video)

IANS Islamabad – Two Pakistani politicians were barred from a flight for holding it up for over one-and-a-half hours, media reported Tuesday. Passengers of an…
Continue Reading »

Simian death-monkey god

Monkey gets Hindu cremation by Indian villagers to avoid misfortune

VANCOUVER DESI In a bizarre sequence of events, almost 200 youths shaved off their heads to ward off ‘ill omen’ brought on by the death…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Sunny Leone

Sunny Leone’s one night stand

VANCOUVER DESI Indo-Canadian porn star-turned-Bollywood actress Sunny Leone is all set to romance Rana Daggubati in her next film titled One Night Stand, according to…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood

‘Bang Bang’ turned down ‘Bigg Boss’ offer?

IANS Mumbai – TV shows are considered an important platform to promote a film before its release, thanks to its wider reach. However, it seems…
Continue Reading »

Desi Sex

Gallery: Bollywood’s on-screen sex queens

VANCOUVER DESI When it comes to lighting fire on the silver screen, our Bollywood actresses don’t shy away from lovemaking scenes. But some are more…
Continue Reading »