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An American has been sentenced to a year in prison by the United Arab Emirates for creating a parody video about ‘gangsta’ culture in the country. At the beginning of the video, Shezanne Cassim and seven other people who made the clip clearly state that it is fictional, but the government was not laughing and they were accused of defaming the UAE abroad.
The satire makes fun of the youth culture in the UAE and clearly states at the beginning, “The following events are fictional and no offence was intended to the people of Satwa and UAE.” Still, the New York Times reports that Cassim, 29, was sentenced in an Abu Dhabi court on Monday to a year in prison and a fine of 10,000 dirhams (around $2,700). Two Indian men received the same sentence, while two Emirati citizens got eight months and a 5,000 dirhams fine.
According to the Associated Press, there were three other defendants, a Canadian, a Briton and another American. They were sentenced to a year each, but were not in attendance. Although Cassim was detained, these defendants never were, so they will probably never spend a day in jail in the UAE.
The National, a state-run newspaper, said that some of the defendants’ sentences will include time served, but Cassim's family attorney in Minneapolis said the details weren't clear on his status. Cassim is an American citizen, born in Sri Lanka and a graduate of the University of Minnesota. He worked in Dubai after graduating in 2006.
“Shez is coming up on nine months incarceration for making a parody. This isn’t justice,” Shervon, Cassim’s brother, said in a statement.
The parody video is called Ultimate Combat System: The Deadly Satwa Gs and makes fun of the ‘gangsta’ culture in the Satwa section of Dubai, even though the youths aren’t tough. The video drew the attention of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s Funny or Die.com and they raised awareness of Cassim’s situation.
Here’s the video: