Target: Mohammad Al Murr, President, Federal National Council, United Arab Emirates
Goal: Commend the release of satire artist, demand the release of his team
A young American imprisoned for releasing a satirical video on YouTube has been allowed to return to the US. Shezanne Cassim, who posted a video ridiculing youth culture in the United Arab Emirates, was arrested and imprisoned for “compromising national security and public order.” After being held in a maximum security prison for nearly a year, he has been released to the US where he faced no charges.
Cassim, while working as a consultant in Dubai, made a video with eight friends mocking “Satwa G,” a youth gangster culture in the United Arab Emirates. A year later, the nine friends were arrested and tried for violating a new cyber-crime law that did not exist at the time the video was posted.
Prosecutors claimed that the video endangered public order and national security in the United Arab Emirates, but presented no evidence to support the claim. After being denied bail without reason, Cassim was finally allowed to return home through deportation to the US.
The same cyber-crime law has been used to prosecute filmmakers, media, and activists that expose human rights violations or government corruption. It has also been used to silence social media users that criticize their government.
Though he was imprisoned for nearly a year, Cassim’s sentence was cut short, allowing him to return to his life sooner. Cassim’s release is one step further to the United Arab Emirates’ goal of improving human rights and free speech standards in the country, but there is still work to do- some of Cassim’s co-defendants remain imprisoned. Your signature will recognize progress made by releasing Cassim, and encourage further efforts to rectify censorship arrests in the UAE.
Dear Mohammad Al Murr, President, Federal National Council, United Arab Emirates,
Shezanne Cassim, an American imprisoned for posting a satirical film online, has been released and allowed to return to the US. While working in Dubai, Cassim and some friends uploaded a video mocking an aspect of youth culture in the United Arab Emirates. They were arrested a year later for violating a law that did not exist at the time the video was uploaded.
Cassim was released early, allowing him to return to his home and his life, though some of his co-defendants remain imprisoned. Though Cassim’s release is progress toward improved freedom of speech in the United Arab Emirates, there is more the can be done to improve human rights in the country. I commend the release of Shezanne Cassim, and ask that his co-defendants be released as well.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: rickz via Creative Commons