Thursday, January 9, 2014

Dubai Follow Up

Back before Christmas I posted about the plight of Shezanne Cassim, a young American film maker who was imprisoned in Dubai for making a short film deemed embarrassing to Dubai. I can now report that after 9 months in jail, he has been released and will return home to Minnesota.

The United Arab Emirates promotes itself as a modern, progressive country that is open for tourism but if you scratch the surface, you find that the country is actually run as a dictatorship. The country has antiquated laws. For example, there is no bankruptcy. If you default on a loan, you can go to jail. That's why there are hundreds of expensive automobiles that are abandoned at the airport. Their owners have fled the country to avoid prison. If you do a little digging, you can find stories about western businessmen that have been held responsible for the failure of UAE companies they were hired to manage and they either are stuck in country awaiting trial or have fled. There are numerous stories about tourists that have been jailed for public displays of personal affection. And Dubai has very strict drug laws where having prescription codeine can land you in jail.

The other part of the story is that the US government will do little to help you if you run afoul of the law. The most they will do is to recommend a local lawyer. You will be on your own. Shezanne served his full sentence of 9 months and still doesn't know what he did.

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