U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has joined forces with a Woodbury family to get a former University of Minnesota student out of prison overseas after he was arrested in April over a comedy sketch.
The post Shez Cassim made was in the same mockumentary vein as the movie "Borat." It's called "Ultimate Combat System: The Deadly Satwa Gs" and the almost 20-minute episode can be found on YouTube. It begins with a disclaimer that reads: "The following events are fictional and no offence was intended to the people of Satwa and UAE."
The fake documentary follows a cast of young men in Dubai's upscale suburb of Satwa, but they aren't nearly as cool or tough as they'd like. So, they attend a combat school where the weapons of choice are shoes, headwear and cell phones.
To put it in local context, the video is similar to what one would expect from a fake documentary about the Crips and Bloods of Edina developing their own form of fighting using stereotypical clothing.
The video essentially pokes fun of young toughs who are really just posers, but the intelligence service of the United Arab Emirates didn't see the humor.
Cassim created the video more than a year ago, but in April, he was arrested -- along with four of his friends who had participated in the video. Court officials say the video violated a cyber crimes law and was a threat to national security.
The ordeal would seem like a parody within a parody if it wasn't so serious.
"Prosecutors accused them of affecting the national security of the state," Shervon Cassim, the filmmaker's brother, told Fox 9 News.
Family members say Shez Cassim, a Woodbury native and graduate of the University of Minnesota, has been living in Dubai for several years, working as a business consultant. From 7,000 miles away, his loved ones have been losing sleep over his continued detainment.
"We just want people to know we love our brother very much and we just want him home for Christmas," Shervon Cassim said.
Cassim's family has been working with Sen. Amy Klobuchar to have him released. She's been putting pressure on the State Department, and even met with the ambassador from the United Arab Emirates this summer.
"UAE holds itself out as a place for American kids to get educated; they have campuses for our universities," Klobuchar said. "Just doesn't make sense."
Nothing in the video explicitly offensive in terms of religion, and even though the disclaimer states from the beginning that it is not intended to be offensive, the courts aren't even sure what's being said. The jokes are made in English, and the courts have asked for a translation.
"On Nov. 25, another judge appeared and said, 'We're still waiting for a translation,'" Shervon Cassim said.
However, the court hearings keep getting delayed when the judge simply doesn't show up. There's no American due process in Dubai, and that has left Cassim sitting in federal prison in Abu Dhabi. His family is allowed phone calls, but they have no idea when he may be released.
"This would never happen in the USA," Klobuchar said.
According to Human Rights Watch, the situation In the UAE has gotten worse over the last few years -- not only in terms of violating the human rights of foreign workers, but also in allowing people to exercise free speech.