UAE gives Israeli woman life sentence after cancelling death penalty

Emirati court convicted Fida Kiwan, an Arab-Israeli from Haifa, of drug charges.

By Associated Press

The United Arab Emirates has sentenced an Israeli woman convicted on drug charges to life in prison, her lawyer said Thursday.

The court had initially sentenced her to death but cancelled it last week. Israel says it has closely followed the case in the UAE, which normalized relations with Israel in 2020 in the first of the so-called Abraham Accords brokered by the Trump administration.

Fida Kiwan, a 43-year-old graphic designer and Haifa resident was arrested in March 2021. Authorities say they found marijuana, cocaine and MDMA pills in the apartment where she was staying, and she was convicted on charges of intending to sell drugs. She denied the allegations.

Mordechai Tzivin, an Israeli lawyer representing her, said she was sentenced to life in prison. He said the law enforcement system in the UAE is “very accurate” and that there is a precedent for amnesty in cases in which heavy sentences are issued.

There was no immediate comment from Israel or the UAE.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry had welcomed the decision to cancel the death penalty last week, saying it was “pleased that the efforts on the legal channels as well as other channels led to the cancellation of the death sentence.”

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Israeli tourists have flocked to Dubai since normalization, eager to see its futuristic skyscrapers, world-famous malls and other attractions. Israel’s top leaders have met with their counterparts in the Gulf state, and business people have struck major deals, even before the recent signing of a free trade agreement, Israel’s first with an Arab country.

The UAE has some of the world’s most restrictive drug laws. Trafficking typically carries a life sentence and possession a shorter jail sentence.

While UAE law allows for the death penalty in certain cases, capital punishment is rarely carried out. The last known executions were in 2011 and 2014, against two men convicted of murder.