For Immediate Release"
@justiceforshez #pardonshez #freeshez
#PardonShez Campaign Marks the U.N.’s International Human Rights Day
MINNEAPOLIS—The #PardonShez campaign is acknowledging International Human Rights Day on December 10, 2015. The date commemorates the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
This year’s IHRD theme, “Freedoms,” hits home for Shezanne “Shez” Cassim, the American who was incarcerated in the United Arab Emirates in 2013, for uploading a satirical sketch comedy to the Internet.
Shez Cassim of Woodbury, Minn., was detained in the United Arab Emirates from April 7, 2013 to January 7, 2014 for posting an amateur comedy video on YouTube. For posting the comedy sketch, Cassim was accused of endangering the U.A.E.’s national security under a federal “Cyber Crimes Law.” Shez was held without knowing the charges and served almost 300 days in a desert prison—for making a satirical comedy video and uploading it to YouTube.com.
He was interrogated, made to sign a false confession, and held for nine months first at an overcrowded city jail in Dubai and then at a maximum-security federal prison in the desert outside Abu Dhabi, the capital of the U.A.E.
Cassim did not know the charges he faced until five months into his detention. Prosecutors repeatedly denied bail and blocked Cassim’s access to his lawyers. He was eventually convicted on the basis of that false confession and sentenced to one year in Abu Dhabi’s Al Sadr Prison.
The #PardonShez campaign is demanding the U.A.E. government do right by him. The wrongful conviction for endangering the UAE’s national security still hangs over Shez’s head and his career, as well as his family’s future, has been damaged.
The #PardonShez campaign began in August and he’s gaining worldwide support. Campaign supporters have contacted the U.A.E.’s ambassador to the United States through a letter-writing campaign, a phone campaign—which shut down the embassy’s phone lines—and an email campaign.
However, the U.A.E. government still has not responded.
“It’s disappointing that the U.A.E., which says it is a modern country, is asking to be named to a key UN Human Rights committee, and even this week is hosting the Dubai International Film Festival won’t even respond to legitimate requests for justice,” said Shezanne Cassim. “The U.N. is celebrating the creation of the International Bill of Human Rights and political freedoms—including freedom of expression. It would be great if the U.A.E., which wants to be seen as a free country, would actually conduct itself as free countries do by correcting its mistakes.”