United Arab Emirates (UAE) security agents have detained U.S. citizen and Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) Board Member Asim Ghafoor at the Dubai International Airport on what appears to be a politically motivated in absentia conviction.
In the absence of any public evidence to support a conviction obtained without due process, DAWN demands that the UAE immediately release Ghafoor and urges President Biden to cancel a scheduled meeting in Saudi Arabia with UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ).
“We are outraged at the unjustified detention of our board member and extremely concerned for his health and physical security given the well-documented record of abuse in the UAE, including torture and inhuman treatment,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of DAWN. “We urge the Biden administration to secure the release of an arbitrarily detained American lawyer before agreeing to meet with the UAE’s leader MBZ in Jeddah tomorrow.”
Ghafoor, a civil rights attorney based in Virginia who previously served as a lawyer for Jamal Khashoggi as well as his fiancé, Hatice Cengiz, arrived in Dubai from the United States on July 14, where he was in transit to Istanbul to attend a family wedding. Ghafoor sent a text message at 4:49 a.m. EST that day, saying that two plainclothes UAE security agents had approached him at the Dubai International Airport while he waited for his flight to Istanbul. The security agents detained Ghafoor and informed him that they needed to take him to Abu Dhabi “to clear a case against him.” They then transported Ghafoor in a police wagon to Abu Dhabi. Ghafoor sent a picture of himself in the police wagon, and DAWN lost contact with Ghafoor after receiving this picture.