Shezanne Cassim, the US citizen charged under the UAE's Cybercrime Act and sentenced to a year in prison, has returned home. According to a statement from the US Department of State, Cassim was released and deported after getting credit against his sentence for time served and for "good behavior."
Upon returning home to Minnesota, Cassim spoke out against the actions of the UAE's government: "Due to the political situation there, they're scared of democracy. They wanted to send a message to the UAE public, saying, 'Look what we'll do to people who do just a silly YouTube video, so imagine if you do something that's actually critical of the government.' It's a warning message, and we're scapegoats."
We are thrilled to hear that Shezanne Cassim is back with his family and doing well and we honor his courage in speaking out.
While Cassim is now free, his co-defendants remain behind bars. Furthermore, an Emirati human rights defender, Obaid Al-Zaabi, has been arrested after giving an interview to CNN in which he commented on Cassim's case. Al-Zaabi was previously detained for using his Twitter account to call for political reform and urge Emiratis to stand up to authorities. After his last arrest, he was released on bail due to his poor health; the Emirates Centre for Human Rights recently expressed concern about his health and possible mistreatment.
EFF remains very concerned about the stifling of free speech in the United Arab Emirates and the use of the country's Cybercrime Act to stifle dissent. We further call on the United States to push its close ally toward signing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.