(Photo credit: Abu Dhabi Judicial Department)
Asim Ghafoor, who previously served as lawyer to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and was detained on 17 July by UAE authorities, has been charged with money laundering, according to a UAE official.
A senior US official told reporters that Washington was aware of the arrest, but could not comment during the bilateral talks with the UAE, on the sidelines of talks between US President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS).
“There’s no indication that it has anything to do with the Khashoggi issue,” the official added.
Khashoggi was tortured and dismembered by Saudi agents back in 2018 at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul under the order of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), according to US intelligence reports.
Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) released a statement on 15 July claiming Ghafoor was en route to Istanbul to attend a family wedding.
UAE officials responded to a Reuters request for comment, saying that the UAE was granted a request by the US embassy to conduct a consular visit, given that the initial trial was held in absentia, Ghafoor is permitted to request a retrial.
“A request has been received and granted, resulting in the case being re-opened, and the relevant legal proceedings underway,” a UAE official said.
DAWN cited US consular officials as saying the lawyer was being held in a detention facility in Abu Dhabi, without knowledge of his alleged crime, and that he had been convicted “without due process.”
DAWN has demanded Ghafoor’s immediate release.
President Biden brought up the murder of Khashoggi during his recent meeting with MbS on 15 July.
“What happened to Khashoggi was outrageous,” Biden said at the time.
“He basically said that he was not personally responsible for it,” Biden went on to say, adding: “I indicated that I thought he was.”
Despite his claims, a video from the meeting shows both Biden and MbS avoiding replies to reporters’ questions about Khashoggi.
Ahead of his election to the presidency, Biden made explicit promises to make the kingdom a “pariah” state and to make MbS “pay the price” for Khashoggi’s murder.
Nonetheless, a severe energy crisis battering the west, due to sanctions imposed on Russia, has forced the US president to do a complete about-face.
Russian oil has been available at a discount in the wake of the severe economic sanctions imposed on Russia following its military invasion of Ukraine.
Intended to isolate Russia and cut its energy export revenues, the sanctions have instead created a severe energy crisis across the west.