Former Jamal Khashoggi Lawyer Detained In UAE, Sentenced To 3 Years In Prison: Report

U.S. citizen and civil rights attorney Asim Ghafoor was detained by United Arab Emirates security agents at Dubai International Airport earlier this week.
President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman greet each other with a fist bump in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Friday.
President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman greet each other with a fist bump in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Friday.
via Associated Press

The day before President Joe Biden fist-bumped Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the former attorney of murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was detained — and then sentenced to three years in prison in the United Arab Emirates, UAE state media reported, according to CNN.

News of U.S. citizen Asim Ghafoor’s sentence followed quickly after human rights group Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) said in a statement Friday that he had been detained by UAE security agents at Dubai International Airport the previous day. Ghafoor, a civil rights attorney, is a co-founder and board member of the organization.

The Abu Dhabi money laundering court has now convicted Ghafoor of committing “two crimes of tax evasion and money laundering related to a tax evasion operation in his country and sentenced him to three years in prison” and a fine of close to $900,000, according to UAE state media WAM, CNN reported.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson told CNN Saturday: “We are aware of the arrest of U.S. citizen Asim Ghafoor in the UAE. We have raised his detention at senior levels with Emirati authorities and requested additional information. We are watching his case closely and providing appropriate consular support; consular officers from the U.S. Embassy visited him today.”

“We have conveyed our expectation that Mr. Ghafoor’s rights to a fair and public hearing and to fair trial guarantees be fully respected and that he be treated humanely, as well as that U.S. rights to consular access be fully respected,” the spokesperson added.

Ghafoor “had no knowledge of any legal matter against him and no reason to believe he was involved in any legal dispute in the UAE,” said the statement from DAWN.

“Whatever trumped up legal pretext the UAE has cooked up for detaining Ghafoor, it smacks of politically motivated revenge for his association with Khashoggi and DAWN,” the statement added.

UAE state media said American authorities had asked for judicial assistance from the UAE regarding their investigations of Ghafoor for alleged tax evasion and making suspicious money transfers to the UAE, CNN reported. There was no confirmation of that from U.S. officials.

One senior U.S. administration official told CNN: “I will say there’s no indication” that Ghafoor’s detention and sentence “has anything to do with Khashoggi, or anything else. But we are aware of it.”

DAWN Executive Director Sarah Leah Whitson said in the organization’s statement Friday: “We are outraged at the unjustified detention of our board member and extremely concerned for his health and physical security given the well-documented record of abuse in the UAE, including torture and inhuman treatment.”

Ghafoor had represented Khashoggi, who U.S. intelligence officials have determined was killed and dismembered in 2018 under orders of the Saudi crown prince. Khashoggi lived in the U.S. but was an Arab citizen and sharp critic of the nation’s royal masters. He was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, where he had gone for a document he needed to marry his fiancee.

Biden, whose visit with bin Salman was controversial because of the Khashoggi murder and Saudi repressions, said Friday that he raised the issue of the journalist’s murder with the crown prince.

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