Israeli sentenced to death in UAE freed, returned home

President Isaac Herzog secures release of Fidaa Kiwan, an Arab-Israeli convicted cocaine trafficker, on the first day of Ramadan.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

An Arab-Israeli who was sentenced to death in the United Arab Emirates for cocaine trafficking was released from prison and landed in Israel on Saturday evening, marking the end of a legal saga that tested diplomatic relations between the Gulf Kingdom and Jerusalem.

Fidaa Kiwan, originally from the northern city of Haifa, was found guilty in an Emirati court in April 2022. Due to diplomatic pressure from Israel, her sentence was commuted several months later to life imprisonment.

Kiwan, a staunch anti-Zionist, previously made headlines in 2010 for refusing to serve a uniformed IDF soldier in a café she once owned. The café eventually closed.

According to Hebrew language media reports, her brother, a one-time employee of public broadcasting station Kan, trashed a room at his workplace in which Israeli flags were displayed.

After her Kiwan’s arrest in Dubai, she initially resisted help from Israeli officials because of her political views. However, she eventually reached out to Israeli authorities for assistance.

Her family vocally accused the Israeli government of racism, claiming in a press conference that officials weren’t doing enough to help her case because of her Arab ethnicity.

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President Isaac Herzog personally asked UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan to pardon Kiwan and he agreed, according to a statement from Herzog’s office.

Kiwan’s release came on the first day of Ramadan. Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia often freeze executions and release prisoners during the month-long holiday.

Although Kiwan is an Israeli citizen, it could be that the Emirates released her as a gesture of goodwill towards the Palestinians, as the woman in question identifies herself as Palestinian.

It’s unclear if Kiwan plans to formally thank the State of Israel and its diplomats for its extensive intervention in securing her freedom and returning her to her home country.