After Herzog plea, UAE frees Israeli woman serving life sentence for drug smuggling

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An Israeli woman was released from prison in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday night and flown back to Israel early Sunday, after UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan granted amnesty as a personal gesture to President Isaac Herzog.

Fidaa Kiwan was spending her life in prison for drug smuggling. She was originally sentenced to death in April 2022, but the Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal overturned the sentence and sentenced her to life in July.

Kiwan, a 44-year-old Haifa resident who owns a photography studio, is said to have come to Dubai for work at the invitation of Palestinian acquaintances. She was arrested a short time later, on 17 March 2021, after a search of her flat turned up the drugs. She claimed the cocaine was not hers.

Over the past year, Kiwan’s relatives have been contacting Herzog’s office, saying she had been set up. Several weeks ago, Herzog made a humanitarian personality for Mohamed bin Zayed that is now recognized, the Hebrew media reported.

The President’s Palace said that he and the staff of the Embassy in Abu Dhabi had been determined for the past few days regarding Kiwan’s return to Israel, saying that Herzog was “expressing his gratitude to the president of the UAE and praying for himself, on to our nation and to all our neighbors the month of the month. kindness and peace” for Ramadan.

Kiwan’s lawyer Tami Ullman said news site Walla welcomed the release, saying: “It is so exciting to hear that we have succeeded in our mission to bring Fidaa home to Israel.” She thanked Herzog, Mohamed bin Zayed and her colleagues at her law firm, who handled the case.

According to Kiwan’s sentence, the Haifa resident met 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.

File: Illustrative photo of cocaine. (CC BY-SA Valerie Everett, Flickr)

When she arrived in the country, an undercover police officer arranged to meet her in a vehicle, where the agent would exchange payment for an illegal substance, the court document said.

However, Kiwan’s family accused the UAE authorities of beating his sister to force a confession. They have said that she launched a hunger strike while in prison.

The UAE is known for its strict anti-drug laws, with those convicted of drug trafficking facing the death penalty. However, the death sentences are not strictly enforced in many cases and are often commuted to heavy prison sentences.

This was not the first time the UAE had made a significant drug bust on an Israeli. In October 2021, it was reported that an Israeli man – Halil Dasuki, 31, from Lod – was arrested in Dubai on suspicion of being involved in a scheme to smuggle half a tonne 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 with Bahrain. Since then the UAE has become a popular tourist and business destination for Israelis and thousands have visited the Emirates.

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