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Friday, 10 January 2014 - 10:11
Lankan born US citizen freed in UAE after nine months
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An American citizen was released from jail in the United Arab Emirates yesterday after serving nine months for posting a parody video on YouTube, his family said.

Shezanne Cassim, 29, was sentenced to a year in prison last month over a 20-minute “mockumentary” video which poked fun at young Emirati men who imitate US hip hop culture.

However, because he had been in detention since last April, Cassim has now been released “according to a customary practice that equates nine months of imprisonment to a one-year sentence”, the family said in an emailed statement.

“Shezanne... will arrive in Minneapolis Thursday afternoon.”

In the video posted on YouTube in 2012, Emirati men jokingly described as “deadly gangsters” can be seen practising throwing sandals and wielding an agal — the cord used to keep in place traditional Arab headscarves.

The video opened with a disclaimer stating it is fictional and does not intend to offend the people of the UAE.

Cassim, an aviation business consultant, was charged with violating the Gulf nation’s cybercrime law, which makes acts deemed damaging to the country’s reputation or national security punishable by jail time and heavy fines.

Cassim was also fined 10,000 dirhams ($2,700).

Meanwhile, security forces have detained three Iranians suspected of kidnapping a British-Iranian businessman who went missing in Dubai in June, the Dubai government said yesterday.

Britain’s Foreign Office said in August it was in touch with the Dubai and Iranian governments over the case of Abbas Yazdi, who went missing in June in Dubai. His wife had told a UAE newspaper that he may have been kidnapped by “elements in Iran”.

The Dubai government press office said that the state security service arrested the three on suspicion of kidnapping Yazdi, a 44-year-old businessman who owns a general trading company in the Gulf Arab emirate.

It quoted Dhahi Khalfan, Dubai’s deputy chairman of police and general security, as saying that the three were about to dispose of some personal effects of Yazdi that had been under surveillance when they were arrested. (Reuters)

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