US lawyer who represented Khashoggi released from UAE

170
2
US lawyer who represented Khashoggi released from UAE

Asim Ghafoor, a US citizen and civil rights attorney who had represented Jamal Khashoggi before the Saudi journalist was murdered, has been released from custody in the UAE where he was convicted on money laundering charges.

Ghafoor was heading home to the US, according to his lawyer, Faisal Gill, who was freed after paying a fine and with help from the US embassy in the UAE.

A court on Wednesday upheld Ghafoor's earlier in-absentia conviction, ordering him to pay a fine but revoking a three-year jail term handed down in May. There was no immediate comment from the UAE.

Ghafoor former lawyer for Khashoggi, who was murdered in Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul in 2018, had been transiting through Dubai Airport on July 14 when he was arrested for money laundering and tax evasion after a request for assistance from the US authorities in 2020.

The court seized funds that were illegally moved through the country on Wednesday, according to Abu Dhabi's judicial department. He would also be deported, it said.

Habib Al Mullah, a lawyer for Ghafoor, said the court confiscated 18 million dirhams $4.9 m US officials have not confirmed the assistance request, but said the arrest was not made at the request of Washington.

Media reports in the US said Ghafoor, who lives in Virginia, had been under US surveillance in the past due to his work representing Muslim Americans in civil rights cases.

In-absentia trial and his detention in July while the US president, Joe Biden, was visiting the region, drew criticism from rights groups and members of Congress.

The supporters of Ghafoor said he was denied due process and was unaware of the charges before he was arrested. Some suggested that the arrest could be politically motivated, citing his ties to Khashoggi and working with rights groups critical of the UAE.

US intelligence says Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the operation in which Khashoggi was killed. The prince has denied involvement. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are close allies.

UAE officials have said the case against Ghafoor was strictly about financial crimes.