ABU DHABI: United Arab Emirates authorities have detained Asim Ghafoor, a US citizen and civil rights attorney who previously served as a lawyer for slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi, said US-based rights group DAWN, of whose board Ghafoor is a member.

A UAE government official confirmed Ghafoor was arrested while transiting through Dubai airport on July 14 on charges related to an in absentia conviction for money laundering pursuant to evidence heard by Emirati courts.

A US administration official had told reporters on Saturday that the United States was aware, but could not say whether President Joe Biden would raise the issue in bilateral talks with the UAE president on the sidelines of an Arab summit in Saudi Arabia.

“There’s no indication that it has anything to do with the Khashoggi issue,” the official added.

Saudi journalist Khashoggi was killed in 2018 at Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate in an operation that US intelligence accuses Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of approving. The prince denies involvement.

Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) said in a statement on Friday that Ghafoor, a civil rights attorney based in Virginia, was en route to Istanbul to attend a family wedding.

The Emirati official said the UAE has granted a request by the US embassy to conduct a consular visit and that since the original trial was held in absentia, Ghafoor is permitted to request a retrial.

“A request has been received and granted, resulting in the case being reopened, and the relevant legal proceedings are underway,” the official said.

Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2022

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