American human rights activist Asim Ghafoor will not have to spend years in prison in the United Arab Emirates for tax evasion and money laundering. A court has lifted the sentence, his lawyer told Reuters news agency.
Ghafoor must pay a fine of 475,000 euros. Nearly 4.8 million euros are also seized from his account. This matches the amount he laundered according to authorities. It is unclear whether Ghafoor has since been released.
Arrested in Dubai
Ghafoor was the lawyer for Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist murdered by Saudis in 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He was convicted in absentia in May. The American has become stopped in Dubai on his way to Turkey.
According to the UAE, an investigation into Ghafoor was opened at the request of US authorities. The United States has not confirmed this and claims that Ghafoor was not detained at Washington’s request.
Ghafoor helped Khashoggi found the human rights organization Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), of which Ghafoor is also a board member. This organization called the condemnation of the activist politically motivated. According to DAWN, foreigners who criticize the UAE are more often arrested for alleged professional misconduct.
A number of US politicians have also suggested there is a political motive, due to Ghafoor’s ties to Khashoggi. The US State Department said it had no indication. UAE authorities also say it is a purely financial crime.
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