UAE sentences Israeli woman to death, testing new links

TEL-AVIV, Israel — The United Arab Emirates has sentenced an Israeli woman to death for possession of cocaine, in a major test of new relations between Middle Eastern countries.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has confirmed that it is working on the case of the woman, identified by her lawyer as Fida Kiwan. According to reports, she is a 43-year-old Haifa resident who owns a photography studio. She was sentenced on Monday, attorney Tami Olman said.

Israel’s Ynet news site said Kiwan was arrested on March 21, 2021, with half a kilogram (more than a pound) of cocaine which she said did not belong to her. Kiwan’s lawyer is appealing the sentence, which could be converted into a prison sentence.

The UAE Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment on the case.

The UAE’s tough drug laws could test the burgeoning relationship between Israel and the UAE under the ‘Abraham Accords’, a series of diplomatic pacts between Israel and four Arab countries brokered by Israel. Trump administration in 2020.

Normalization has turned glitzy Dubai into a freewheeling Israeli tourist destination. Top Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, met their counterparts from the Gulf state, and the United Arab Emirates took part in an unprecedented meeting of Arab and Israeli foreign ministers in Israel’s Negev desert in the end of last month.

As for Kiwan, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it “is aware of the incident and is dealing with it through the Israelis Abroad Division in the Consular Department and Israeli representations in United Arab Emirates”.

Israeli media reported that Kiwan came to Dubai to work at the invitation of a Palestinian acquaintance just over a year ago. She was arrested shortly after after a search of her apartment revealed the presence of drugs.

The United Arab Emirates is one of the most restrictive countries in the world when it comes to people importing and possessing drugs, including substances for personal use like cannabis and even over-the-counter drugs like narcotics.

Trafficking is usually punishable by life imprisonment and possession by a shorter prison term. While UAE law allows the death penalty in some cases, capital punishment is rarely carried out. The last known executions date back to 2011 and 2014, against two men convicted of murder.

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