Parliamentary and human rights groups in the United States of America criticized the arbitrary arrests of opponents against their political background in the UAE, the latest of which was the lawyer Asim Ghafoor.
Last month, the UAE authorities arrested Ghafoor, who worked as a lawyer for prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed inside his country’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in early October 2018.
The New York Times reported that pressure is growing in the United States on the UAE to release Ghafoor and stop the arbitrary arrests it is practising.
On Thursday, members of Congress and a group of Islamic organizations held two separate press conferences to draw attention to the case of attorney Asim Ghafoor.
Abu Dhabi said on July 16 that it had detained him after convicting him in absentia of tax evasion and money laundering, adding that it had investigated Ghafoor, a US citizen, at the request of the United States.
But a State Department spokesman said two days later that Washington had not asked the Emiratis to detain him. “We certainly did not request or seek the arrest of Mr Ghafoor,” spokesman Ned Price said.
Ghafoor’s colleagues and supporters in Congress said his sudden arrest raised questions about whether the UAE was holding him for political reasons, such as his relationship with Khashoggi.
Ghafoor’s supporters said he had been accused, tried and convicted without his knowledge or opportunity to defend himself and described his detention as arbitrary and unfair.
Price said, “There is no indication at this stage that Ghafour’s arrest has anything to do with his relationship with Jamal Khashoggi.” But he said the United States had requested additional information from the Emiratis.
Ghafoor and Mr Khashoggi founded the human rights organization, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), which has called for an end to human rights abuses in the UAE. He urged a halt to US arms sales to the country.
Representative Don Baer Jr., a Democrat from Virginia, said at a news conference that Ghafoor’s treatment by UAE authorities was “unacceptable.”
According to the newspaper, foreign tourists and migrant workers faced arrests and swift trials for violating UAE laws, and other foreigners spent years in prison for failing to pay small debts.
Ghafoor, a father of three who works in Washington and lives in Virginia, was arrested July 14 at Dubai airport on his way to a family wedding in Istanbul, according to DAWN.
In 2010, a federal judge ordered the government to pay more than $2.5 million in legal fees and damages to Mr Ghafoor and another attorney, such as a Saudi charity in Oregon, after discovering they had been wiretapped without a court order during a federal investigation into philanthropy.
A 2014 report based on documents leaked by Edward J. Snowden identified Ghafoor as one of five US Muslim-American agencies that wired him under an operation authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allowed the government to monitor Americans if they were suspected of committing a crime on behalf of a foreign power. Ghafoor was not charged with any offence.