Minnesota Man Thrown In Jail for a YouTube Parody Video Freed At Last

Shezanne “Shez” Cassim, a native of Minnesota was arrested in the United Arab Emirates when he poked fun at fake Dubai gangstas on a video clip he made in 2012. This was one of the first cases of a foreigner to be arrested by the UAE government that impose strict and tough measures regulating Internet use in this Middle Eastern country.

With 7 other co-defendants, Shez was detained for a few months in the United Arab Emirates. It was in 2013 that all the accused were sentenced to jail as a result of posting a satirical video that features the youth culture in Dubai.

This case quickly drew the attention of the media as well as human rights advocacy groups. The “mockumentary” uploaded on YouTube was considered foul as it challenges the 2012 cybercrime laws in UAE that functioned to tighten penalties. Websites such as FreeShez.com is an excellent example of how big this issue was not only among Americans, but online citizens from around the globe.

The 19-minute parody video that was posted on YouTube on October 2012, showcased a Shex and a group of friends dressed as would-be gangsters in Dubai. The video featured the group supposedly training on how to fight by throwing sandals and calling assistance on a cellular phone. At the time the video was filmed, Shez was employed as a business consultant in one of the companies based in Dubai.

UAE government officials were immensely offended by the video. In April 2013, Shez and his friends were arrested by Dubai authorities. They were sued for violating the country’s cybercrime laws as well as endangering national security. Due to these cases, the group was held inside a maximum security prison in Abu Dhabi while they waited for sentencing.

Shez and his friends were totally unaware of the law they broke, and were only informed of their alleged crime after five months of detention. The detainment of Cassim not only prompted the creation of FreeShez.com but also inspired international celebrities with the likes of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay to create Funny or Die videos seeking for Shez’s release.


After eight months in detention, Shez and his group were finally sentenced to pay 10,000 UAE dirhams for fine and a one-year sentence in prison. Thankfully Shez was released early as a result of good conduct and behavior. Despite this almost two years of detention and imprisonment in Dubai, Shez reports that he still would like to return to UAE as it offers opportunities. The country is a land of opportunities for those who want to succeed in life. Various industries are known to be growing fast in this country, including real estate, finance, life insurance, health care, and engineering to name a few.