The U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates told U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar the case of Shezanne Cassim, a former Minnesota resident imprisoned in Abu Dhabi, is his “highest priority.”
Cassim and several friends were imprisoned after filming a mock documentary about teen life in Dubai and uploading it to YouTube.
A U.S. citizen, Cassim has lived and worked in Dubai since he graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2006. He was arrested in April and charged with violating a cybercrimes law. After spending two months in jail in Dubai, he was transferred to a maximum security prison.
Ambassador Michael Corbin “personally pledged to me that he would make it the highest priority,” Klobuchar said Tuesday. The two talked by phone late Monday night.
The U.S. State Department has visited Cassim regularly and attended all his court hearings.
Family members on Tuesday said Cassim was initially denied legal counsel and forced to sign a document in Arabic that he could not read while jailed in Dubai.
Cassim’s next court date is Dec. 16. The judge in his case is waiting for an Arabic translation of the video, “Ultimate Combat School: The Deadly Satwa G’s,” which began with a disclaimer stating that it was fictional.
Klobuchar also plans to reopen discussions with Yousef Al Otaiba, the United Arab Emriates' ambassador to the United States, about Cassim's case, she said.
President Obama on Thursday nominated Twin Cities attorney Andrew Luger to be U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, replacing B. Todd Jones, whom the president appointed to head the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Unlike Jones, Luger will not likely have to face the threat of filibuster, which Senate Democrats voted to limit in a historic move earlier in the day.
Luger was recommended for the U.S. Attorney position last July by Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken. Luger previously served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney.
Klobuchar issued a statement calling Luger “a dedicated public servant whose breadth of experience, strength of character, and commitment to justice make him a well-qualified candidate to serve as Minnesota’s next U.S. Attorney.”
Franken, in a statement praising Luger’s “invaluable experience serving in both the public and private sectors.”
Luger is currently a partner at the Greene Espel law firm and has been selected as one of Minnesota’s Top 100 “Super Lawyers” for the past ten years. He has been listed as one of the “Best Lawyers in America” for the past four years.
A slight majority of Minnesota voters expressed disapproval of President Obama’s health care law, known as Obamacare, according to a poll commissioned by the conservative Minnesota Jobs Coalition.
The partly automated telephone poll of 400 likely voters, conducted this week by the Tarrance Group, found that 51 percent disapprove of the law, compared to 43 percent who approve. Strong opposition stood at 43 percent, compared to strong support at 29 percent.
The poll, coming in the midst of a very shaky rollout for the new health care law, reflected strong partisan differences. But, tellingly, independents broke against the law 2 to 1, the poll found.
The poll did not measure how many of those who said they dislike the law did so because of problems with the government Web site or because they would like to see its provisions go farther.
The same poll found diminished support for Sen. Al Franken, with 45 percent saying he deserves reelection next year, compared to 43 percent who say it’s time to “give a new person a chance.”
A Public Policy Polling survey last month found Franken’s approval rating among registered voters in Minnesota is at 51/43, almost identical to his 51/42 approval rating in their polls last May.
Public Policy Polling is generally regarded as a Democratic firm; Tarrance is more commonly used by Republicans.
The Tarrance poll found voters more evenly divided on Gov. Mark Dayton. It found 45 percent saying he deserves reelection, versus 45 percent who would like to give someone else a chance.
The poll, which also found that 60 percent of Minnesota voters think the country is headed down the “wrong track,” included both automated calls to landlines and live calls to cell phones. It had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 5 percent.
Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Sen. Al Franken picked up an early union endorsement.
The Minnesota AFL-CIO General Board voted to back the two Democrats for reelection, saying both were strong advocates for working Minnesotans.
“As governor, Mark Dayton is working to build a better Minnesota through successful job creation strategies, restoring fairness to our tax system, strengthening education, and supporting the rights of working people to bargain collectively,” said Minnesota AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson.
“Al Franken, with a 98 percent AFL-CIO voting record, has demonstrated time and time again that he can be counted on to be a champion for working families in the United States Senate,” she said.
Both candidates have relied heavily on union support in the past, both money and manpower. In past elections, Minnesota’s union members put in thousands of hours on the phone and at the door, volunteering to help elect endorsed candidates.
The AFL-CIO elected board represents more than 300,000 union members throughout the state of Minnesota.