An American lawyer who defended murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi has been detained in the United Arab Emirates, fueling more controversy surrounding President Joe Biden’s trip to the Middle East.
Asim Ghafoor was detained at Dubai airport on Thursday while on his way to Istanbul for a family wedding, according to Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN).
The human rights group said Mr Ghafoor was being held in a detention center in Abu Dhabi after being convicted in absentia of money laundering.
Mr Ghafoor, a US citizen and civil rights attorney from Virginia who previously acted as Khashoggi’s attorney, had no prior knowledge of any convictions, Dawn said in a statement on Friday.
A senior US administration official confirmed on Saturday that officials were aware of Mr Ghafoor’s detention. Assistant Press.
However, it is not clear whether Mr Biden plans to raise the issue as he meets the president of the United Arab Emirates in Saudi Arabia later that day.
“Certainly I think we have our point about the importance of consular access and everything else,” the official said, adding that “there is no indication that it has anything to do with the Khashoggi issue”.
It was not clear whether Mr Ghafoor’s detention was raised during a friendly meeting between Mr Biden and UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Saturday.
At the meeting, Mr. Biden even formally invited his UAE counterpart, who took office in May, to visit the United States by the end of 2022.
“The challenges you face today only make it that much more important that we spend time together,” Mr. Biden told her. “I would like to formally invite you to the States.”
freedom The White House has been reached for comment.
The meeting came as Mr Biden met several Middle Eastern leaders as part of his four-day visit to the region, including the man believed to have ordered the hit on Mr Khashoggi.
On 2 October 2018, Mr Khashoggi – a Washington Post journalist and staunch critic of the Saudi government – was assassinated inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
US intelligence agencies concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, ordered the assassination.
Mr Biden met with MBS during his controversial trip on Friday and confronted the crown prince about his role in the assassination. MBS has denied any responsibility and the US has fired back at the president with its own controversy.
Mr. Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia and his decision to meet with MBS have drawn criticism, especially since Mr. Biden made statements during his 2020 White House campaign that he would make Saudi Arabia a “pariah.”
The president sparked further backlash when he greeted MBS with a friendly fist-bump at the start of their meeting on Friday.