Minn. man set free after months in UAE prison

By Michelle Kapusta,

A Minnesota man, who had been held captive in a United Arab Emirates prison over a parody video, has been set free.

According to the Associated Press, a spokeswoman for the family confirmed that 29-year-old Shezanne Cassim of Woodbury, Minn., was released on Thursday.

In April, Cassim was arrested after he made a video mocking the culture of Arab youths in Dubai. He was originally sentenced to one year and in June was sent to a maximum security prison in Abu Dhabi.

The New York Daily News reported that Cassim’s video was described as “Satwa G.” The 19-minute video, which was posted online, mimicked the country’s young people trying to rap.

For the past several months, Cassim’s family had made multiple pleas to U.S. State Department officials and UAE officials for his release. The website FunnyorDie.com and advocacy groups for comedic free speech also launched campaigns to make the case public and lobby for his release.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) had worked to get his release ever since she was contacted by Cassim’s family last April.

“This decision is not just wonderful news for Shezanne, his family and his friends, it is simply the right thing to do,” Klobuchar said in a statement Tuesday. “Jailing this young man for months for posting a harmless video made absolutely no sense, especially in a country that prides itself on being a tolerant and just nation. Shezanne’s family never gave up on this fight, and having their son home safe is the best start to 2014 I can imagine.”

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