West News Wire: Asim Ghafoor, a US citizen and human rights attorney, who was found guilty of money laundering this week in the United Arab Emirates, has been released and is returning home.

Attorney Faisal Gill stated on Friday that Ghafoor, who once represented the assassinated journalist Jamal Khashoggi, was released after paying a fine and that the US embassy in the UAE assisted in making this possible.

A court upheld Ghafoor’s earlier in-absentia conviction on Wednesday, reversing a three-year prison sentence but directing him to pay a fine of 5 million dirhams ($1.4 million).

There were no immediate comments from UAE officials.

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 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.

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


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