After the fist bump seen round the world, U.S. President Joe Biden ended his trip to Saudi Arabia and visit with Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.
Asim Ghafoor, a U.S. citizen and Virginia resident, was a close personal friend of and reportedly served as legal counsel to Virginia resident Jamal Khashoggi.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist, was brutally murdered by Saudi officials in 2018 in what the Office of Director of National Intelligence determined was approved by bin Salman.
United Arab Emirates authorities sentenced Ghafoor to prison on unsubstantiated charges after he was reportedly tried in absentia and detained without notice of conviction.
On July 22, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, along with Reps. Jennifer Wexton, Gerry Connolly and Don Beyer of Virginia, pressed Biden to raise discussion of Ghafoor’s detention and advocate for his fair and humane treatment.
“[W]e strongly urge you and your administration to raise Mr. Ghafoor’s case immediately at the highest levels of the Emirati government and advocate for his fair treatment, including assurances regarding his health and safety while in Emirati custody. It is critical the Administration makes clear that the hasty detention of U.S. citizens like Mr. Ghafoor cannot become normalized as an appropriate tactic of U.S. partners,” the lawmakers wrote, according to a press release. They further wrote that the lawmakers received the Department of State’s July 18, 2022 statement that the U.S. had not sought Ghafoor’s arrest. “However, absent concrete evidence of Ghafoor’s alleged criminal behavior, the UAE’s repeated claim that this arrest was conducted in coordination with the United States government in order to ‘combat transnational crimes’ raises concerns about oversight of U.S. involvement in that partnership.”
The press released stated that the lawmakers also requested the Biden Administration to call on Emirati authorities to allow Ghafoor regular access to his family and to his attorneys; ensure the U.S. embassy continues to receive consular visits with Ghafoor and that U.S. embassy staff are permitted to attend all trial proceedings; confirm with UAE officials that Ghafoor will receive humane and fair treatment while in Emirati custody, including immediate access to required medical care; and solicit additional information from the Emirati government regarding the legal proceedings against Ghafoor, and determine whether his arrest should be considered a wrongful detention or act of transnational repression.