Asim Ghafoor was detained in the United Arab Emirates.
The former lawyer of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has arrived home after a one month imprisonment in the United Arab Emirates.
US citizen Asim Ghafoor landed in his home town of Northern Virginia on Sunday, exactly one month after he was picked up by Emirati agents during a stopover in Dubai.
“Today marks one month since I was first detained in the UAE. I’m so glad to finally be home and reunited with my family,” Ghafoor said in a statement published on Twitter.
“I will not be speaking to the press as I recover from this difficult experience. But I do want to take a moment to share my gratitude with everyone,” he added, saying he was “humbled by the outpouring of love and support that I’ve received” from friends and family across the country.
Ghafoor also thanked his lawyer and “best friend” Faisal Gill, as well as “the State Department and the Department of Justice for assisting my legal team with my UAE case”.
The US citizen also confirmed he would be filling an appeal in due time.
Responding to his release, Executive Director of DAWN Sarah Leah Whitson said the organisation “is happy to confirm that Asim Ghafoor, one of the founders of DAWN, is on his way back from the UAE.
“His in absentia conviction and subsequent imprisonment lacked any semblance of due process,” she added.
Ghafoor was detained by UAE security agents in plainclothes on 14 July while transiting to Istanbul to attend a family wedding.
The arrest took place on the eve of US President Joe Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia, where he was seen fist-bumping Saudi Crown Prime Mohammed bin Salman, commonly known as MbS.
This is despite various investigations, including one by the CIA, that concluded that de-facto Saudi leader MbS ordered the horrific killing of Khashoggi in 2018. Separately, a 2019 UN investigation concluded that the crime was a “premeditated extrajudicial execution”.
Days after the arrest, Abu Dhabi Criminal Court sentenced the ex-lawyer to three years for alleged “crimes of money laundering and tax evasion”.
The UAE’s press agency (WAM) reported that the Emirati court accused Ghafoor “of committing two crimes of tax evasion and money laundering related to a tax evasion operation in his country”.
The UAE claimed that the arrest came “upon the American authorities’ request for judicial assistance regarding their investigations of the accused for tax evasion and making suspicious money transfers to the state”.
However, the US said it “has not sought the arrest” and requested additional information on the case.
“The Emiratis have spoken to their rationale for the detention,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington on 18 July.
In late July, US Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton called on the UAE government to release him after he contracted Covid-19 behind bars.
“I am continuing to press the UAE government for answers following the arrest of Asim Ghafoor, a US citizen and Virginia resident,” tweeted Representative Wexton.
A day earlier, she Wexton wrote a letter to the Emirati ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, in which she raised concerns over his medical condition. She noted Ghafoor was being quarantined per health protocols.
“I respectfully request that you allow Mr. Ghafoor immediate access to his attorneys and ensure that the US embassy is able to monitor his care while he is being treated for Covid-19,” wrote Wexton in the latter.