RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Thirty Virginia legislators called on the Biden administration Saturday to take action on behalf of Asim Ghafoor, a friend and former lawyer of slain dissident Jamal Khashoggi who’s been imprisoned by the United Arab Emirates.
Ghafoor, a Virginia resident, was arrested earlier this month and quickly sentenced to three years in prison on charges of money laundering and tax evasion. Human rights groups have questioned the conviction.
The UAE has suggested the arrest was done in coordination with the U.S., but the State Department says the U.S. has never sought Ghafoor’s arrest.
Virginia Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, who led the signature effort among state lawmakers, said Ghafoor has a retrial scheduled Aug. 1, and urged Biden to raise the issue of Ghafoor’s arrest directly with the UAE’s president.
Biden’s “relationship with the UAE government puts the White House in a strong position to advocate for Mr. Ghafoor’s fair treatment and urge them to ensure he is safe while in UAE custody and granted bail,” the letter states.