UAE frees Israeli woman jailed on drug charges

DUBAI (AFP): The United Arab Emirates has released an Israeli woman sentenced to life in prison on drugs charges, her lawyer and the Israeli presidency told AFP on Sunday.

Fidaa Kiwan, an Arab Israeli photographer, was arrested in Dubai in 2021 and initially sentenced to death for possession of 50 grams of cocaine and half a kilogram of marijuana.

Her punishment was reduced on appeal in July to life in prison, which in the UAE amounts to 25 years.

Emirati president Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan ordered Kiwan’s release following intervention by his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog, according to Israel’s presidential office.

“She was given a pardon by President bin Zayed as a special gesture to President Herzog who requested her release,” said Eylon Levy, a spokesman for the Israeli president.

Herzog’s office had coordinated the details of Kiwan’s release with the Israeli embassy in the UAE, Levy told AFP.

Tami Ullmann, Kiwan’s Israeli lawyer, told AFP that her client had arrived in Israel at 3:00 am (0000 GMT) on Sunday.

“I am very, very thankful to both presidents. They did a very good mitzvah (deed),” she said.

Emirati authorities did not immediately respond to requests by AFP to comment on the case.

The two countries launched ties in 2020 as part of a series of diplomatic deals brokered by Washington.