Israeli Gets Life in UAE Prison After Death Sentence Overturned

Fida Kiwan was arrested after Dubai police found half a kilogram of cocaine in her possession and charged her with drug smuggling, an accusation she denies

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

The United Arab Emirates sentenced an Israeli to life in prison on Thursday for drug smuggling after rescinding her death sentence last week, her lawyer said.

Fida Kiwan, a 43-year-old owner of a photography studio from Haifa, was arrested a year ago after authorities found half a kilogram (over 1 pound) of cocaine in her bag while she was in the Gulf state, an accusation she denies.

Tami Ulman, who represents Kiwan, said that "this is the time for diplomacy. Formally, an appeal is possible, but the chances of a second appeal being granted is highly unlikely," Ulman said.

Fida Kiwan

"I believe that diplomacy can secure a pardon for her and release her back to her home," Ulman added.

The case was a potential test of ties between the two countries, which normalized relations in 2020, in the first of the so-called Abraham Accords between Israel and four Arab countries brokered by the Trump administration.

She had came to Dubai for a photography gig, and was staying in an apartment that had been rented for her to work out of by a Palestinian from the Ramallah area. After staying there a few days, the Dubai police came to the apartment and conducted a search. They found drugs in her bag and arrested her.

Kiwan denied that she was trafficking drugs and claims that the drugs were planted in her bag and in the apartment.

In April, Kiwan's family members reached out to Arab lawmakers as well as Amnesty International in order to have her sentence lightened.

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.

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