An American citizen is being held in a maximum-security prison in the United Arab Emirates after posting a satirical YouTube video. He is the first foreign national to be charged with the country's draconian cybercrimes decree.
Shezanne Cassim posted a mock documentary spoofing youth culture in Dubai. For this he has been charged, among other things, with violating Article 28 of the cybercrimes law. This bans using information technology to publish caricatures that
are 'liable to endanger state security and its higher interests or infringe on public order'
Rori Donaghy, Director of the Emirates Centre for Human rights said in a statement that the case has:
Worrying implications for all expatriates living and working in the UAE.
Cassim has been thrown in prison for posting a silly video on YouTube and authorities must immediately release him as he has clearly not endangered state security in any way.
An American consultant living in the United Arab Emirates has begun a one-year sentence in a maximum security prison after a spoof video was ludicrously ruled a threat to national security.
Shezanne Cassim from Minnesota, is behind bars in an Emirates federal prison in the desert outside Abu Dhabi, while family members, lawyers and politicians in the US work diplomatic and legal channels in their attempts to free him.
He was sentenced for allegedly threatening UAE security and endangering public order with an online satirical video mocking affluent Emirates youth who mimic gangster street behaviour while actually enjoying pampered lifestyles.
An edict from the president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has effectively made it illegal for anyone in the country to use a VPN or secure proxy service.
Those caught could face jail time and fines of between 500,000 and 2,000,000 UAE dirham (US$136,130 and $544,521). The change was announced this week by the UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan in a proclamation that amended federal laws.
The wording is ambiguous and technologically illiterate. Essentially, it seems, you are not allowed to use systems that hide the fact that you're committing a crime or covering one up. If you're routing your network traffic through a secure VPN or proxy
server, you could be breaking the law and evading the eyes of the state, and that's now a big no-no.
You could claim you were using the VPN or proxy for legit reasons, and that no criminal activity was being committed or concealed, but since your packets were encrypted, you may have a hard time proving your innocence. The updated law now reads:
Whoever uses a fraudulent computer network protocol address (IP address) by using a false address or a third-party address by any other means for the purpose of committing a crime or preventing its discovery, shall be punished by temporary imprisonment
and a fine of no less than Dhs 500,000 and not exceeding Dhs 2,000,000, or either of these two penalties.