US lawyer released after UAE money laundering conviction

Asim Ghafoor, a prominent civil rights lawyer, was arrested while he was in transit through Dubai airport last month.

Asim Ghafoor
Lawyer Asim Ghafoor is on his way back to the US from the UAE after being convicted of money laundering [File: Courtesy of]

US citizen and civil rights lawyer Asim Ghafoor, who was convicted in the United Arab Emirates this week on money laundering charges, has been released and is on his way home.

Ghafoor, who once represented murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, was freed after paying a fine, his lawyer Faisal Gill said on Friday, adding that the US embassy in the UAE helped facilitate his release.

A court on Wednesday upheld an earlier in-absentia conviction against Ghafoor, ordering him to pay a fine of 5 million dirhams ($1.4m) but overturning a three-year jail term handed down in May.

UAE officials had no immediate comment.

Ghafoor, who lives in Virginia, was in transit through Dubai airport on July 14 when he was arrested for the in-absentia conviction.

UAE’s state news agency WAM said he was picked up following an “assistance request” from US officials investigating Ghafoor’s “involvement in tax evasion and suspicious money transfers”.

US officials have said the arrest was not made at Washington’s request.

Media reports in the United States say Ghafoor has in the past come under US surveillance due to work representing Muslim Americans in civil rights cases.

The lawyer’s in-absentia trial and detention last month, while US President Joe Biden was visiting the region, drew criticism from rights groups and some members of Congress.

Ghafoor’s supporters say he was denied due process and was unaware of the charges before being arrested.

Some have also suggested the arrest could have been motivated by his ties to Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey in 2018, and work with rights groups critical of the UAE.

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

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters