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Minn. man home after being imprisoned in UAE for joke video

Shezanne Cassim returned to Minnesota after months in a high security jail in Dubai for creating a video parody.

Jim Mone /Associated Press

Shezanne Cassim returned to Minnesota after months in a high security jail in Dubai for creating a video parody.

MINNEAPOLIS — An American man returned to Minnesota on Thursday after spending nine months in prison in the United Arab Emirates for his role in making and posting online a satirical video about youth culture in Dubai.

Shezanne Cassim, 29, of Woodbury, Minn., told reporters he did nothing wrong and there was nothing illegal about the video.

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‘‘I was tried in a textbook kangaroo court, and I was convicted without any evidence,’’ Cassim said after an airplane carrying him home arrived at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. He said his ordeal shows the UAE is ‘‘scared of democracy.’’

Cassim was arrested in April and had been held at a maximum security prison in Abu Dhabi since June.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, who advocated for Cassim’s release, said his return home was ‘‘long overdue.’’

‘‘This guy has been waiting nine months for doing nothing but posting a joke video,’’ Klobuchar said in telephone interview Thursday.

Susan Burns, the family’s attorney, said UAE prison officials escorted Cassim to an airport in the UAE on Wednesday, where he was reunited with his father and put on an airplane.

‘‘You can imagine the torture they’ve been under for nine months, not knowing if they were going to see him, when they were going to see him,’’ Burns said. ‘‘There’s been a lot of anxiety . . . mostly due to the arbitrary procedures over there and the lack of transparency.

The UAE-owned daily newspaper, The National, has said Cassim and his co-defendants were accused of defaming the country’s image abroad. Cassim’s supporters said he was charged with endangering state security under a 2012 cybercrimes law that tightened penalties for challenging authorities.

He and seven others were convicted in December.

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