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U.S. requests more information on UAE arrest of Khashoggi lawyer

Dubai International Airport in 2019. (Jon Gambrell/AP)

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday that the United States is requesting “additional information” from the United Arab Emirates about the arrest of Asim Ghafoor, a U.S. citizen and former attorney for slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The UAE sentenced Ghafoor over the weekend to three years in prison and an $800,000 fine on charges of money laundering and tax evasion after an in-absentia conviction sometime in the past, according to the WAM, the state news agency.

The UAE said Saturday that U.S. authorities had requested UAE support with an investigation into Ghafoor’s alleged crimes. He was arrested while transiting through Dubai International Airport.

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“The UAE Public Prosecution praised the mutual coordination to combat transnational crimes with the United States, which led to the arrest of the accused, and his presentation to the Abu Dhabi Criminal Court in accordance with the legal procedures established in this regard,” the news agency reported.

Price, however, said the United States did not seek Ghafoor’s arrest and conveyed to the UAE its expectation that he “be afforded a fair and transparent legal process and that he be treated humanely.”

Ghafoor’s attorney, Faisal Gill, said Monday that his client had not heard anything about his conviction in the UAE before his arrest and had yet to see any documentation for the government’s charges. Ghafoor was not facing any criminal charges in the United States, Gill said.

Ghafoor had represented Khashoggi, who was killed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018. When asked about the basis for Ghafoor’s arrest, Price said, “We see no indication at this point that his detention has anything to do with his association with Jamal Khashoggi, but we’re still gathering information.”

When asked whether the United States had requested that the UAE investigate Ghafoor in the first place, Price referred that question to the Justice Department.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said the agency “does not publicly comment on communications with foreign governments on investigative matters, including confirming or denying the very existence of such communications.”