An American and four other men detained in the UAE for making a parody video about youth culture will discover on Monday whether they will be freed after eight months in prison for “damaging the state’s reputation”.
Shezanne Cassim, 29, a Sri Lankan-born American citizen, along with two Indians and two Emiratis, are among the first to be charged under the Gulf state’s new draconian cyber crimes law.
They uploaded to Youtube a send-up of “gangsta culture” in the Dubai suburb of Satwa, a sedate area just outside the city centre where young men often adopt “street” poses but are generally more interested in their jobs and their families. In the video, young “gang members” are trained in the art of threatening people with their sandals and using their agals – the cords that keep their traditional headscarves in place – as lassoo-type weapons.
The five were arrested in March and a verdict is due today (Monday) on their case, which was adjourned at the last hearing in November so that a translation of the video from English to Arabic could be prepared for the judge.
In the meantime, the campaign to free Mr Cassim has won the support of his family’s state governor, Mark Dayton of Minnesota, and other local politicians. The actor Will Ferrell, star of the Anchorman movies, has also joined in, hosting a video containing pleas by well-known American comedians for Mr Cassim’s release.