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

Fidaa Kiwan, arrested in March 2021 for cocaine, will receive a jail sentence instead of execution, her defense attorney says

Fidaa Kiwan. (Courtesy)
Fidaa Kiwan. (Courtesy)

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

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

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

Kiwan, a 43-year-old Haifa resident who owns a photography studio, reportedly came to Dubai for work at the invitation of a Palestinian acquaintance a year ago. She was arrested a short while later, on March 17, 2021, after a search of her apartment turned up the drugs. She has claimed that the cocaine was not hers.

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

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

Illustrative: The sunrise reflects on city skylines at the Marina and Jumeirah Lake Towers districts 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 sentence, the Haifa resident met up with a man named Yassin Ibrahim Nagiar before traveling to the UAE, who offered her a monthly payment of NIS 47,000 ($13,700) to sell drugs.

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

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

The UAE is known for its strict anti-drug laws, with those convicted of drug trafficking facing a possible death sentence. However, the death sentences are not rigorously enforced in many cases and tend to be converted into heavy prison sentences.

This was not the first time that the UAE has made a notable drug bust of an Israeli. In October 2021, it was reported that an Israeli man — Halil Dasuki, 31, from Lod — was arrested in Dubai on suspicion of involvement in a scheme to smuggle half a ton of cocaine into the UAE and from there to Israel.

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

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