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UAE court lifts prison sentence for American convicted of money laundering

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Alexander Cornwell

DUBAI — A court in the United Arab Emirates lifted a prison sentence but found money laundering charges against U.S. citizen and civil rights attorney Asim Gafoor. upheld the conviction. Gahoor's lawyers said Wednesday that he was detained while transiting Dubai last month.

The court paid Gahoor his 5 million dirham ($1.36 million) fine, which is in his account. ordered the confiscation of his 18 million dirhams. But he removed a three-year prison sentence from a previous sentence handed down in absentia in May, lawyer Habib Al Mulla told Reuters.

Attorneys did not say whether Virginia-based Gafoor was released. It did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Ghafoor, who helped found the human rights group along with the slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, said the UAE had launched an investigation in 2020, based on a absentee court conviction. detained at the international airport. He received a request for assistance from US authorities.

On Monday, his UAE embassy in Washington said a UAE investigation found Gafur through his UAE banking system that he had made international transfers of at least $4.9 million, tax evasion and money laundering. said he decided that

The July 14 trial in absentia and his detention during a visit to the region by US President Joe Biden drew criticism from rights groups and some members of Congress.

The United States did not confirm that it had requested an investigation by the emirate, and said Gafoor was not detained at Washington's request.

Ghafour's supporters say Ghafour is unaware of the charges, and some US lawmakers have suggested the arrest may be political, and in 2018 It mentions his ties to Khashoggi, who was murdered by Saudi agents in Turkey.

UAE authorities have consistently described the incident strictly as one of financial crime. They did not immediately respond to a request for comment by Reuters on Tuesday about the accusations that Mr. Gafoor's ties to Mr. Khashoggi may have been a factor.

US intelligence says Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has authorized the operation in which Khashoggi was killed. The crown prince denies his involvement. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are close allies.

According to Ghafoor's website, Ghafoor helped Khashoggi found the US-based rights group Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) in 2018 and its board member. is a member of the association.

DAWN said the May conviction was obtained without due process and called for his immediate release, a criticism raised by members of Congress.

The UAE Embassy said that since his arrest, Ghafoor has been in regular contact with due process, local lawyers, family members and US consular officials. His bail request was denied at a previous court hearing pending appeal. ($1 = 3.6727 UAE Dirhams) (Reporting by Alexander Cornwell, Editing by Toby Chopra and Peter Graff)