UAE court overturns Israeli woman’s death sentence for drug possession

The Federal Court of Appeal in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday overturned the death sentence of an Israeli woman after she was given a harsh sentence in April for possession of half a kilogram of cocaine.

Fidaa Kiwan’s defense attorneys, Shadi Saruji and Tami Ullman, hailed the decision as “a humane and just decision”.

Speaking to the Kan public broadcaster about the decision, Ullman said Kiwan will be sentenced to prison in the coming days and the defense team will “do everything to get her to Israel as quickly as possible.”

Kiwan, a 43-year-old Haifa resident who owns a photography studio, reportedly came to Dubai to work at the invitation of a Palestinian acquaintance a year ago. She was arrested shortly after, on March 17, 2021, after a search of her apartment revealed the presence of drugs. She claimed the cocaine was not hers.

“I never thought in my whole life that I would receive a death sentence. I don’t think that will happen. This is a modern country,” Kiwan told Kan in April.

Speaking to Channel 12 news, acquaintances and friends of Kiwan thanked his lawyers for their efforts and said they were awaiting news of an alternative sentence.

Illustrative: The sunrise reflects off the city skyline in the Marina and Jumeirah Lake Towers neighborhoods in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, February 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

“There is one thing we can say, there is justice,” they said.

According to Kiwan’s conviction, the Haifa resident met a man named Yassin Ibrahim Nagiar before traveling to the United Arab Emirates, who offered her a monthly payment of NIS 47,000 ($13,700) to sell drugs .

Upon her arrival in the country, an undercover police officer arranged to meet her in a vehicle, where the officer exchanged payment for an illegal substance, according to the court document.

However, Kiwan’s brother accused UAE authorities of beating his sister to extract a confession, the Walla news site reported.

The United Arab Emirates is known for its strict anti-drug laws, with those convicted of drug smuggling potentially facing the death penalty. However, death sentences are not strictly enforced in many cases and tend to be converted into long prison sentences.

It was not the first time the UAE had made a notable drug bust against an Israeli. In October 2021, it was reported that an Israeli – Halil Dasuki, 31, from Lod – had been arrested in Dubai on suspicion of involvement in a scheme to smuggle half a ton of cocaine into the Emirates Arab States and from there to Israel.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates normalized their relations in 2020 when they signed the US-brokered Abraham Accords with Bahrain. The UAE has since become a popular tourist and business destination for Israelis, and tens of thousands of people have visited the Emirates.

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