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UAE pardons Palestinian woman jailed on drug charges

UAE pardons Palestinian citizen of Israel jailed for life on drugs charges, Tel Aviv says
2 min read
Fida Kiwan, a Palestinian woman with Israeli citizenship from Haifa, was arrested two years ago on drug possession charges, which she had denied.
The UAE has some of the world's most restrictive drug laws [Getty]

Israeli officials said on Sunday the United Arab Emirates has pardoned a Palestinian woman with Israeli citizenship after initially sentencing her to death for drug possession.

Fida Kiwan was arrested in early 2021 with half a kilogram (over 1 pound) of cocaine that she claimed did not belong to her, Israeli media reported. The UAE later commuted the death sentence to life in prison in July 2021.

Her sentencing at the time was "welcomed" by the Israeli foreign ministry and her lawyer, who said the law enforcement system in the UAE was "very accurate" and that there is a precedent for amnesty in cases in which heavy sentences are issued.

Lior Haiat, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said Kiwan had returned to Israel overnight Saturday after the pardon.

The office of Israel’s ceremonial president, Isaac Herzog, said the pardon came following a request by Herzog to UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, who agreed "as a gesture of good will," to release her.

There was no official comment from the United Arab Emirates.

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The UAE and Israel controversially agreed to normalise ties in 2020 as part of the Abraham Accords, in a move brokered by former US President Donald Trump.

The move drew near-unanimous backlash in the Arab world. Palestinians described it as a "stab in the back", as Israel continues to violently occupy the West Bank and besiege the Gaza Strip.

There was no immediate comment from officials in the UAE over the pardon of Kiwan, who is a resident of the Israeli city of Haifa.

The 43-year-old was arrested after authorities said 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. 

The woman's family lodged a public appeal in April last year, claiming that Kiwan was a "victim" due to her "blind trust in people".

The UAE has some of the world's harshest drug laws, where trafficking typically carries a life sentence and possession a shorter jail sentence.