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Published: Thursday January 9, 2014 MYT 10:30:02 PM
Updated: Thursday January 9, 2014 MYT 10:30:56 PM

UAE frees American jailed for YouTube parody video

DUBAI (Reuters) - An American citizen was released from jail in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday after serving nine months for posting a parody video on YouTube, his family said.

Shezanne Cassim, 29, was sentenced to a year in prison last month over a 20-minute "mockumentary" video which poked fun at young Emirati men who imitate U.S. hip hop culture.

However, because he had been in detention since last April, Cassim has now been released "according to a customary practice that equates nine months of imprisonment to a one-year sentence", the family said in an emailed statement.

"Shezanne... will arrive in Minneapolis Thursday afternoon."

There was no immediate reaction from UAE authorities.

In the video posted on YouTube in 2012, Emirati men jokingly described as "deadly gangsters" can be seen practising throwing sandals and wielding an agal - the cord used to keep in place traditional Arab headscarves.

The video opened with a disclaimer stating it is fictional and does not intend to offend the people of the UAE.

Cassim, an aviation business consultant, was charged with violating the Gulf nation's cyber crime law which makes acts deemed damaging to the country's reputation or national security punishable by jail time and heavy fines.

Cassim was also fined 10,000 dirhams (1,639 pounds).

Last year, an Abu Dhabi court jailed a man for two years for tweeting about a political trial, highlighting the sensitivity of Gulf Arab states to political dissent, criticism of senior officials and to comments they regard as blasphemous, especially on social media.

(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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