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Minnesotan close to release from United Arab Emirates

| Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, 9:21 p.m.

MINNEAPOLIS — An American who's been held in the United Arab Emirates for nine months in connection with a satirical online video about youth culture in Dubai was expected to be released soon, the State Department said on Tuesday.

Shezanne Cassim, 29, of Woodbury, Minn., was arrested in April, six months after he and others uploaded their spoof documentary to the Internet.

The United Arab Emirates-owned daily 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.

Cassim has been in the maximum security prison at Abu Dhabi since June. In December, he was convicted and sentenced to one year in prison, a fine and deportation.

Pooja Jhunjhunwala, a State Department spokeswoman, said that Cassim has been moved to a deportation facility for processing.

“We understand processing will take a few days, at which point he will be returning to the United States,” she said, adding: “We continue to work closely with the UAE authorities to ensure his quick release.”

Cassim's family said he is out of his cell block and in a deportation processing section of the prison. They expect him to return home this week.

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