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WHS grad arrested for spoof video to be released from UAE prison

Shezanne “Shez” Cassim, the Woodbury High School graduate who was jailed overseas for posting a comedy YouTube video, will be released this week, elected officials said Tuesday.

Cassim’s “Ultimate Combat System: Deadly Satwa Gs” parody landed him in a Dubai maximum security prison for allegedly violating United Arab Emirates cyber-crimes laws and threatening national security.

Cassim was arrested in April 2013 and sentenced in December to one year in prison.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the eight months he already served would be credited, but on Tuesday, Minnesota’s two United States senators said he’s getting ready to be deported back to the United States.

U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar said they’re pleased the case is finally resolved.

The Cassim family sought help from both senators to speed up legal proceedings in the UAE and urge for Cassim’s release.

“I’m thrilled that Shezanne is finally coming home to his family in Minnesota,” Franken said. "I’m relieved that Shezanne’s ordeal is over and was pleased to help press for his release over the past several months.”

Klobuchar has also been pushing for Cassim’s release since learning about the charges, which she said “made absolutely no sense, especially in a country that prides itself on being a tolerant and just nation.”

“This decision is not just wonderful news for Shezanne, his family and his friends, it is simply the right thing to do,” Klobuchar said. “Shezanne’s family never gave up on this fight, and having their son home safe is the best start to 2014 I can imagine.”

Cassim is a 29-year-old University of Minnesota alumnus and 2002 WHS graduate who was working as a business consultant in the aviation division of PricewaterhouseCooper at the time of his arrest.

Friends and family say the video is simply a reflection of his light-hearted, funny personality. The 19-minute YouTube clip starts off with a disclaimer explaining its content is fictional and doesn’t truly represent the district of Al Satwa in Dubai.

Al Satwa is like any other typical American suburb, according to Cassim’s family members who are originally from Sri Lanka and lived in Dubai for a number of years. Family members said the city is bound to have its cliques of teenagers loving technology and embracing various aspects of pop culture.

They say a video mocking that culture is similar to any Funny or Die or Saturday Night Live references.

“It’s like Woodbury. It’s like any other suburb you would be familiar with,” Shalali Cassim said. “It’s just a group of teenagers that he was making fun of.”

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.