One on One Interview with U of M Student Held in UAE for Nine Months

Created: 01/18/2014 10:31 AM

(KSTP) - We are learning what's next for a University of Minnesota Alumni, who spent nine months in jail overseas.

Shez Cassim was released from the United Arab Emirates last week. He was jailed and fined for co-producing a YouTube video.

Jean Cassim, his mother, said, "I can't believe that I'm seated sitting next to [my son]." The family joked and shared some of the more serious, harrowing times of the past year.

Sanath Cassim, his father, said the entire experience was like a mirage, but, he said, "I never gave up."

He never gave up hope that his 29 year old son would get out of prison in the UAE. Shez Cassim was put into a maximum security prison after producing a YouTube video with friends. He said it was a joke, poking fun at wealthy teens in Satwa.

He grew up in a neighboring community. Shez Cassim says those teens often pretend to be gangsters, after being influenced by television shows outside of their country. He says they're actually harmless. He thought his video was harmless, too.

"For people who don't understand the culture, what is the satire or parody that people are seeing when they watch the video?" 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reporter Brandi Powell asked. Shez Cassim responded saying in part, "The whole thing was to exaggerate the things they do; to portray to the city that these guys aren't dangerous; that the city is safe."

Shez Cassim added, "Feedback was [good]...The people who do understand the joke thought this was one of the funniest things to come out of Dubai."

While in prison, Shez Cassim said authorities asked him questions such as, "Who is paying you to make this video? Are you part of a foreign, anti-government organization?"

As for how Shez Cassim would describe prison, he said, "[It's] a school for creativity. We created our own playing cards, we created our own chess set using bread to create chess pieces."

They tried to joke around at times when one of them would feel scared or sad, but Shez Cassim said, "We really did out best to keep each other going."

Photo: KSTP