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American detained in UAE for parody video to go free, State Department says

Uncredited / AP

Shezanne Cassim of Woodbury, Minn. is expected to be released from the United Arab Emirates, a State Department spokeswoman said Tuesday.

An American jailed in the United Arab Emirates for posting a satirical YouTube video will be set free, the State Department said on Tuesday. The man's case had sparked an internet campaign calling for his release.  

A court ruled on Dec. 23 that Shezanne Cassim’s video threatened national security -- and sentenced the 29-year-old to a year in jail as well as fined him 10,000 U.A.E. dirhams, about $2,700.

But Jen Psaki, State Department spokeswoman, said Tuesday that Cassim had been credited with the time he spent in custody before his trial and was also granted some time off for good behavior -- and would soon be released.

“We have received word that Mr. Cassim has been moved to a deportation facility for processing,” she said. That processing could take a few days, she added, and then he would return to the United States.

Before his arrest, Cassim had worked as a business consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Dubai, where he moved after graduating from the University of Minnesota.


Cassim was detained in April under strict cybercrime laws after he posted a video entitled "Satwa Combat School," a parody about affluent Dubai teenagers who try to adopt tough-guy personas.

He was held for almost five months without being charged and then transferred to a maximum-security prison in the middle of the desert, family spokeswoman Jennifer Gore has said.

Cassim's case, closely watched by State Department officials, became a cause on Twitter under the hashtag #freeshez. The campaign was backed by, among others, the website Funny Or Die, which was co-founded by "Anchorman" star Will Ferrell.

U.A.E. authorities had previously indicated there were no grounds to appeal the case.

Alexander Smith of NBC News contributed to this report.