The United Arab Emirates has sentenced the former lawyer of Jamal Khashoggi – the dissident Saudi journalist who was killed at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018 – to three years in prison on charges of money laundering and tax evasion.
The Abu Dhabi money laundering court also ordered Asim Ghafoor, a US citizen, to pay a fine of more than $800,000 (£675,000) stemming from his in absentia conviction, the UAE’s state-run WAM news agency reported.
The UAE’s state-linked newspaper The National said he would be deported to the US after completing his sentence.
The UAE framed Ghafoor’s arrest as a coordinated move with the US to “combat transnational crimes”. State-run media said US authorities had requested the UAE’s help with an investigation into his alleged tax evasion and suspicious money transfers.
The prison sentence was announced a day after the Washington-based human rights watchdog Democracy for the Arab World Now (Dawn) raised alarm about the arrest of Ghafoor, one of its board members, at Dubai international airport.
Dawn said Ghafoor, a civil rights lawyer based in Virginia who had represented Khashoggi and his fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, was in transit to Istanbul on Thursday to attend a wedding when plainclothes security agents detained him and sent him to an Abu Dhabi detention facility before he could change planes.
Ghafoor had no knowledge of any case against him and had transited through Dubai without incident less than a year ago, DAWN said.
The US embassy in Abu Dhabi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.