Here's the video that landed a Minnesotan in prison for nine months

YouTube screen grab of a parody that landed one Minnesotan in jail. He's pictured here in the back passenger seat.
The writer Martin Amis once referred to a critic as "humorless," by which he meant to impugn on the man's seriousness.

The censors employed by the United Arab Emirates government may not be serious people, but they have serious means of punishment at their disposal. Looking into the case of Shezanne "Shez" Cassim, one is compelled to ask: Who are they kidding?

Cassim, a 29-year-old U of M grad working in UAE, has spent the last nine months in prison for participating in a 19-minute parody about Dubai youth culture.

The mockumentary is entitled "Ultimate Combat System: The Deadly Satwa Gs." It depicts an ancient martial art as little more than men throwing shoes through newspapers. A cell phone is a weapon that lets you call friends to come help you fight.

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With the help Minnesota lawmakers in Congress, Cassim's family launched a campaign for his release. It even caught the eye of comedians at Funny or Die.

Last month, Cassim was sentenced to a year prison. However, the U.S. State Department is expecting him to be released in the next few days. He was hit with a $2,725 fine and deportation.

"Jailing this young man for months for posting a harmless video made absolutely no sense, especially in a country that prides itself on being a tolerant and just nation," Senator Amy Klobuchar said in a statement.

Watch for yourself the video that Emirati thought-police have dubbed a threat to national security. The film begins with this obvious disclaimer: "The following events are fictional and no offence was intended to the people of Satwa and UAE."

UPDATED with information from the U.S. State Department

-- Follow Jesse Marx on Twitter @marxjesse or send tips to

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